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Sunday, August 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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North Spokane homeowner accused of setting home on fire had history of arson

UPDATED: Fri., March 8, 2019, 7:04 p.m.

A firefighter was injured March 2 while responding to a house fire at 4008 N. Pittsburg in Spokane. The homeowner is under investigation for starting the fire. She also has a history of allegedly intentionally starting fires in that house. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)
A firefighter was injured March 2 while responding to a house fire at 4008 N. Pittsburg in Spokane. The homeowner is under investigation for starting the fire. She also has a history of allegedly intentionally starting fires in that house. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

A 52-year-old woman under investigation for intentionally starting a fire in her north Spokane home March 2 has a history of similar actions, court documents allege.

Detectives with the Spokane Police Department filed a search warrant Wednesday in Spokane Superior Court seeking access to the woman’s home at 4008 N. Pittsburg St., which became fully engulfed in flames at about 7 p.m. Saturday. The woman was injured and treated for smoke inhalation, while a Spokane Fire Department firefighter was treated briefly for minor burns.

Michele Anderson, public safety communications manager for the city, said Friday that the firefighter was back at work.

Detective Brian Cestnik wrote in the warrant that the woman told an officer at a local hospital that she inadvertently started the fire while trying to burn loose strings off the bottom of her couch with a lighter. However, Cestnik includes in the warrant two other instances where firefighters were called to the home due to alleged arson by the homeowner.

As of Friday, the woman had not been arrested or charged.

Cestnik wrote that during the interview the officer noted the woman was likely suffering from mental health issues, and was not cooperative with questions. She also reportedly admitted to using meth. A bag containing a “white crystal-like substance” was found by hospital staff, records state.

On Nov. 21 and again on Dec. 3, firefighters were called to the Pittsburg Street address under similar circumstances. On the November date, firefighters found a small fire in the front yard, which had spread to bushes and a small tree. They were able to extinguish it before flames reached the home.

In December, court records say the woman used lighter fluid to ignite a small pile of garbage on her porch, which spread to a nearby bush. Firefighters again were able to extinguish it before it did any significant damage.

Police also responded to this incident, but the woman had apparently retreated into the house and refused to exit. When officers breached the home, they reportedly found she had lit a charcoal fire on her coffee table. She was taken into custody and placed under a mental health evaluation at Sacred Heart Medical Center.

The woman’s daughter, who declined an opportunity to speak for this story, posted on Facebook the night of last week’s fire. She and other commenters reference mental health treatment the woman sought at Frontier Behavioral Health, which they say deemed her “competent” and sent her home last week, despite her past behavior with fire in her home.

Another commenter, who did not immediately return a message seeking further discussion, said the woman was getting treatment as part of an involuntary commitment.

The woman has no felony criminal history in Washington.

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