Anonymous hero honored for arson tip

Herald staff

EVERETT — Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel and Fire Marshal Pam Miller will accept an arson award today (for an anonymous hero who exposed an insurance fraud.

The award coincides with Fire Prevention Week, which ends Saturday.

The arson award stems from an incident in northern Snohomish County a couple of years ago when a resident noticed some suspicious activity outside and called 911. Because of that call, authorities arrested an arsonist who set fire to a vehicle. The arsonist was convicted and the insurance company avoided a fraudulent claim.

The citizen, who chose to remain anonymous, will receive the Arson Alarm Foundation Award from the Washington State Fire Insurance Council and a $2,500 check.

Representatives of the foundation and the insurance council will present the check to county officials at 1:30 p.m. in the public conference room on the fourth floor of the county administration building, 3000 Rockefeller Ave., in Everett.

Arson is a difficult crime to fight, and authorities often rely on tips, Miller said.

"We want people to know that it does pay to do the right thing," Miller said. "Sometimes it’s easy to turn away and not want to get involved, but by reporting arson you can help prevent crimes and make our community safer for all of us."

The Arson Alarm Foundation has a $10,000 fund that pays for varying cash awards to hotline callers who provide information that helps authorities arrest and convict arsonists.

This year’s national theme for Fire Prevention Week is "Fire Drills: The Great Escape." Fire officials encourage people to develop home fire escape plans and practice them.

The county’s theme is "We can’t help you if we can’t find you." County officials urge residents to display their addresses so that they can be located quickly and easily during an emergency.

"Fire Prevention Week has been around virtually forever," Everett Fire Marshal Warren Burns said. "It coincides with the week that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern and started a straw fire that burned down most of Chicago."

At least the cow was blamed widely for starting the fire, which Burns jokingly called "early urban renewal."

Everett fire inspection personnel will be at grocery stores to staff information booth, hand out information and answer questions. If necessary, they will visit homes to help families determine their fire safety needs.

"Although this is the week the nation recognizes, you should always practice escaping from your home, where to meet, two ways out of your bedroom, having everybody in your family know their address and phone number," Burns said.

Residents also should make sure that address numbers are visible from the road.

"If you live 400 feet from the road and you have two-inch letters, they’re not going to be visible," he said.

To be extra safe, put address numbers on the front and back of your house, so emergency vehicles that come down the alley can find the house, too, he said.

"And you can consult with your local fire department," he said. "They’ll come out to your house and give you a safety evaluation. Advice is cheerful and it’s always free."

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