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Tuesday, October 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Lengthy investigation names suspect in 2016 arson fires north of Spokane

UPDATED: Wed., Feb. 21, 2018, 9:26 p.m.

A Fire District 9 crew makes their way past burned out timber at Rutter Parkway and Keenan friday 8/12/05. A team of local, state and federal authorities believe they have found the man responsible for three arson fires in the area in 2016. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)
A Fire District 9 crew makes their way past burned out timber at Rutter Parkway and Keenan friday 8/12/05. A team of local, state and federal authorities believe they have found the man responsible for three arson fires in the area in 2016. (Christopher Anderson / The Spokesman-Review)

After an investigation that lasted more than a year, a team of local, state and federal authorities believe they have found the man responsible for three arson fires north of Spokane.

The fires were set on Aug. 21, 2016, in patches of dry grass and timber along Rutter Parkway, and the largest burned about one-tenth of an acre, according to court records. While they were quickly extinguished, they drew resources away from two much larger blazes that erupted on the same day: the Wellesley fire on Spokane’s Beacon Hill and the Yale Road fire that ripped through the Valleyford area to the south.

Assistant Chief Doug Bleeker of Spokane County Fire District 9 said the investigation involved a large team of officials from local fire districts, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the state Department of Natural Resources, Washington State Parks and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

“We’ve been at this for a long time, with a boatload of resources from different agencies,” Bleeker said. “This was truly a team effort.”

Bleeker said the investigation picked up steam when a DNR investigator stopped by a home on Rutter Parkway and asked to review surveillance footage from the day of the fire. Court records say the footage showed a red and silver Subaru Impreza, registered to Joshua C. Phillips, stopping along the road just before the fires came into view.

The records say Phillips, 22, admitted to setting the fires in an interview with DNR and ATF investigators, although it wasn’t immediately clear if he had offered a motive. He was arraigned last month on a second-degree arson charge.

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