Fatal fire likely not arson, say police

SNOHOMISH — Police are now nearly sure that the fire that killed a Snohomish family was started accidentally.

“We are 90 percent certain this was not an arson fire,” Snohomish Police Chief John Turner said Tuesday.

Investigators have narrowed down the location in the mobile home where the fatal Sept. 30 fire started, he said.

A makeshift heater and a power strip were found where fire investigators believe the blaze started, Turner said.

“Power supplies have a history of overheating,” the police chief said.

The leading cause of mobile home fires is faulty wiring, fire officials said.

Additional analysis is underway to help investigators reach a definitive conclusion on the fire’s cause.

Relatives of the family that died in the blaze said they feel better knowing the fire likely was an accident, said Juliana Montaño Flores, a sister-in-law.

“Thinking that someone would have a grudge against them is something we don’t need right now,” she said.

Investigators had considered the fire suspicious: A specially trained dog detected signs of a flammable accelerant at the mobile home. Test results are still pending to determine what the dog might have sniffed.

The victims were Maria “Sandra” Montaño, 28; her daughters Ashley, 7, and Yareli, 4; and her sister, Petra “Claudia” Montaño, 25.

The early morning blaze killed the family as they slept.

Countywide, there are roughly 18,000 mobile or manufactured homes, mostly in unincorporated areas, county property records show. Like the 40-year-old mobile home where the Snohomish family died, nearly one in five in the county was built before 1976, when government standards went into place to improve fire safety.

Federal immigration officials arrested the man who sold the mobile home to the family for $4,000 in late September, days before the fatal fire. He’s being held in a federal detention center for possessing fraudulent immigration documents and living illegally in the country, according to a complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Seattle.

Police were interested in the man early on during the fire investigation.

“We did want to talk to him,” Turner said. “He’s not a person of interest at this point in time.”

La Raza del Noroeste writer Alejandro Dominguez contributed to this report.

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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