Washington state and federal authorities are investigating about 13 fires that began within hours of each other as suspected arson attacks.
No injuries have been reported as a result of the fires, but they occurred so closely together that police believe some people’s homes were targeted.
The first fire was reported at around 8pm on Tuesday, with the last one registered at just before 4am on Wednesday.
One of the fires started in a carport, while three others began outside businesses. Several homes were also set ablaze.
Brad Harp awoke to flames in his stairwell. He told King 5 that he thought he heard an explosion just before.
“It’s upsetting, you know, to realize that somebody tried to burn your house down with you in it,” he said, adding that he had smelled lighter fluid.
Most of the roof of another house collapsed as a result of the fire.
“It was unbelievable. It was a massive fire,” Jack Kelly told KOMO after hastily leaving his home and seeing his neighbour’s house go up in flames.
Yet another fire began to the backdoor of a home, near the bedroom of a teenager. Around 90 minutes later, a garage was set on fire about a mile away. Police have said they’re not sure if it’s just one person or a group of suspected arsonists who set the fires.
Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have joined local authorities in the investigation.
Police have also increased their presence in the area. “This is a priority, not just for our department,” Tacoma Police Officer Wendy Haddow told local media. “This is a priority for the fire department. It’s a priority for our whole community. We do not want someone injured as a result of an arson that someone set.”
Fire Department spokesperson Joe Meinecke toldThe News Tribune “people were in these places where these fires happened, and that’s really concerning”.
“Not only does that endanger our community, but it endangers our crews,” he added. “We were thrilled that none of our folks were injured.”
Warren Crain, 60, a Tacoma resident, told the paper that the entire area smelled like smoke and that he spotted a flaming porch.
“My dog and I were walking by, and I looked and went, ‘Oh that ain’t good,’ and so was up pounding the door and throwing flaming tables and flaming potted plants off the porch,” Mr Crain said, who called 911 and left the scene after firefighters arrived.
“I’m going to be careful, but I’m not going to let the paranoia win,” Mr Crain, who has lived in the area for more than two decades, added.