Three more fires bring Vancouver total to 28

Herald staff

VANCOUVER, Wash. — Three more fires were set in the city this weekend, bringing to at least 28 the number of arsons in the area in the past month.

No one has been injured in the fires, which have been set in dumpsters, garages and homes in Vancouver and nearby Hazel Dell since Sept. 25.

The three fires on Saturday night came within a period of one hour and 15 minutes and were located within two miles of each other.

The Vancouver Fire Department has requested help from Portland fire investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which brought a dog trained to sniff for accelerants.

The first 25 fires caused $200,000 damage, but no estimates were immediately available for the latest four.

Rose’s Tea Room and Gifts was damaged Sept. 26, then was destroyed in a second wave of fires Oct. 5. Faruolo Violins’ 1907 home suffered about $75,000 in structural damage last week.

Officials say they don’t have any suspects yet, but the person or persons responsible are probably using a car to flee the scenes.

  • City sets high hopes with budget: Bellevue’s proposed $739 million, two-year budget would bring a lot of changes. Goals include adding 911 dispatchers, putting computers in every police car and selling building permits over the Internet. The plan also sets aside $8.9 million for "audacious goals" such as a performing arts center and more waterfront parks. City officials say it can all be done without raising property taxes, thanks to growth in the city, especially in Lincoln Square and other downtown areas. The city shouldn’t need to raise property taxes through 2006, city officials said. But homeowners will probably see a $3 increase in their water bill because of rising water costs from Seattle and to raise pay for some utility workers.

  • State investigating fire department: Tukwila’s fire department is under investigation for its handling of a brush fire in August. The state Department of Labor and Industries this month began investigating an anonymous complaint that the department failed to establish a proper chain of command during the Aug. 4 fire, which threatened several homes between Interstate 405 and Interurban Avenue. Tukwila has no regular, round-the-clock shift supervisors, and firefighters say that contributed to the problem. Fire Chief Tom Keefe and his two assistant chiefs must drop their administrative duties to respond to large fires. On Aug. 4, Keefe was driving toward Kent when he was paged about the fire. By the time he arrived at the scene, confusion had already set in, the complaint says. Radio procedures were unclear and there was no staging area established where fire crews from four neighboring departments could receive instructions. Keefe said the city’s administration has refused to pay the $360,000 a year in salary and benefits it would cost to hire three battalion chiefs who could supervise 24 hours a day.
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