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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Teen admits to setting fire to family’s Spokane Valley apartment

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 28, 2020

A teenager faces attempted murder charges after she admitted to setting fire to her family’s apartment in Spokane Valley.

Firefighters were called to the Balfourwood apartment complex, located at 10207 E 14th Ave. at 3:50 a.m., said Spokane Valley fire spokeswoman Julie Happy. Investigators suspect the fire was started with gasoline. The 15-year-old daughter of the apartment residents is suspected of starting the fire.

It already had been a difficult few months for the multigenerational family living in the apartment.

Karol Thompson has been out of work as a hairstylist for months, initially because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown of salons. Then when salons reopened, Thompson chose to stay home to protect her father-in-law from COVID-19. Karol Thompson, her husband Morgan Thompson, his teenage daughter and his parents lived together in the apartment in Spokane Valley.

They had a normal evening Sunday night before heading to bed. Their 15-year-old took a shower and said “I love you,” Karol Thompson said.

Hours later Thompson and her husband awoke to the fire alarm blaring and smoke pouring into their downstairs bedroom.

“We heard the fire alarms while we were sleeping in our beds,” Thompson said. “My husband opened the door and everything was on fire. And he saw a gas can.”

Then he went to wake up his parents. The four adults were all able to get outside through their bedroom windows, along with the family’s two dogs.

“There was no way we could go out the front door,” Thompson said. “It was all fire.”

Thompson went to their daughter’s bedroom window only to find she wasn’t in her bed. Thompson said she used a fire extinguisher to dampen the flames while calling the girl’s name.

“We were obviously terrified,” Thompson said.

In the meantime, her husband was attempting to fight the fire which would ultimately give him severe burns on his legs, feet and hands and send him to the intensive care unit. According to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the burns are not life threatening. “His reaction was to try and stomp it out,” Thompson said.

As first responders arrived, the Thompson family was ushered to the other side of the street by firefighters who feared that the oxygen tanks Karol Thompson’s father-in-law uses for his COPD would explode. Ultimately, the tanks did explode, making the apartment a total loss.

“She came walking back down the street when we were all standing there,” Karol Thompson said.

The family was shocked when the teenager admitted she had started the fire, Thompson said.

“She saw her dad and started crying and said ‘there’s something wrong with me,’ ” Thompson said. “That’s all she said and they took her away.”

Spokane County Sheriff’s deputies arrested the girl on suspicion of arson and attempted murder.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Thompson said. “You don’t think these things will happen to you.”

While still in shock, Thompson said there have to be underlying reasons why the girl did what she did.

“She told the police that she was mad at us for taking her phone away but we took her phone away six months ago,” Thompson said. “I really think there was something more to it.”

As of midmorning Monday, the family was awaiting help from the Red Cross to find them a place to stay. Thompson’s unemployment is backlogged, meaning she hasn’t received support in nearly 13 weeks. The family also did not have renter’s insurance.

While finances and finding a place to stay are a worry, Thompson said her husband’s recovery and getting help for their daughter are the priority.

“I don’t know what to hope for at this point,” Thompson said. “I hope we can help her.”

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