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Beacon Hill fires may be arson

FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2011

Teen admits setting Colbert-area fires

Three brush fires along the southwest flank of Beacon Hill on Wednesday are being investigated as arson, officials said Thursday.

The fires burning in rugged terrain near Minnehaha Park Wednesday evening drew fire crews from around the region, including firefighters from the Washington Department of Natural Resources.

The fires in northeast Spokane came on the heels of eight fires ignited by a 16-year-old arsonist near Colbert last weekend, DNR fire officials said.

A male student in the Mead School District confessed to starting several fires Saturday and Sunday near Mountainside Middle School and Colbert Elementary School in north Spokane County, said Pat Humphries, fire information officer with Spokane County Fire District 4.

On Saturday, two brush fires were reported at 7:45 p.m. near the middle school on Day-Mount Spokane Road. On Sunday, two new fires were reported about 2 p.m. around the elementary school on Green Bluff Road.

While firefighters responded to the wildfires at Colbert Elementary, an additional fire threatened the middle school’s sewage treatment facility, Humphries said. Crews responded to three more suspicious wildfires Sunday in the same area.

“Had it been a windy day we would have had significant structure losses,” Humphries said. Investigators interviewed the teen Monday, and he confessed to starting all of the fires, Humphries said.

The case has been forwarded to the Spokane County Juvenile Court for charges.

In Wednesday’s incident, three fires were ignited shortly after 4:30 p.m., near the park on Euclid Avenue, burning uphill and threatening communication towers and power lines.

The state dispatched a fire plane from Deer Park to dump water on the blaze.

Firefighters remained on the scene through Thursday morning to monitor the area, said Brian Schaeffer, Spokane Fire Department assistant chief. Crews from Fire District No. 9 also responded to the blaze.

Schaeffer said the fact that three fires occurred in succession a short distance apart has led authorities to believe they were intentionally set.

The area has been a trouble-spot for fires over the years. Last July, a human-caused fire burned five acres in the vicinity.

In the past 40 years, more than 100 fires have occurred in that area, according to news files.

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