Authorities in Tacoma, Washington, are scrambling to find a suspect after 13 fires were set in less than 24 hours, apparently targeting people’s homes. No injuries have been reported from the fires, but officials say the spate of blazes all occurred so close together they set off alarm bells.
Starting Tuesday night, the fires all broke out near residences in the north Tacoma area, in some cases just minutes apart. The first fire was reported just before 8 p.m., and the last one a few minutes before 4 in the morning Wednesday, with the culprit apparently pouncing in the dead of night.
One fire erupted in a carport. Three more broke out outside of businesses. In other cases, homes went up in flames. Brad Harp, a homeowner who woke up in the wee hours of Wednesday morning to a fire burning through his stairwell, told King 5 he thought he’d heard a muffled explosion just beforehand.
“It’s upsetting, you know, to realize that somebody tried to burn your house down with you in it,” he was quoted saying, adding that he smelled lighter fluid at the scene.
In another case, a devastating fire consumed so much of a house in the area that most of the roof collapsed.
“It was unbelievable. It was a massive fire,” Jack Kelly, who frantically evacuated as he watched his neighbor’s home turn into a fireball, told KOMO News.
Nearby, another fire broke out at a back door right next to a teenager’s bedroom. And an hour and a half later, a garage was set on fire about a mile away.
Police have said they still aren’t sure if one person is behind the fires, or if there could be a group of marauding arsonists. Federal investigators have stepped in to help track down the culprits, with special agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives joining the hunt.
Police have also added extra patrols throughout the area to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
“This is a priority, not just for our department,” Tacoma Police Officer Wendy Haddow said in comments to 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.”