A Spokane woman admitted she started the fire that caused several million dollars in damage to the north Spokane Home Depot two weeks ago, according to court documents.
Kennie A. Calvert, 59, was arrested in an unrelated incident Sunday at the Spokane Valley Home Depot for suspicion of shoplifting. She told police she started the fire as a distraction so she could steal a six-pack of paper towels, a bag of Miracle-Gro, a roll of black wire and a potted plant, according to a search warrant document filed Wednesday in Spokane County District Court.
She was arrested on charges of first-degree arson and remained in the Spokane County Jail on Wednesday on a $100,000 bond.
The fire erupted into 25-foot flames that would have destroyed the building, 9116 N. Newport Hwy., if not for the home improvement store’s sprinkler system, Spokane Fire Department Chief Brian Schaeffer said last month.
The fire was reported around 9:20 p.m. May 19. Schaeffer said the first fire company arrived within three minutes, and it took about an hour to get the fire under control.
According to the court documents, Spokane Fire Arson Investigator Tom Oliver determined the fire started in Aisle 2. The aisle contains a variety of outdoor power equipment as well as the fuel supplies to power the equipment.
Oliver found a metal container of TruFuel on the floor next to the point of origin of the fire. TruFuel is fuel made for two-cycle engines, court records said.
The TruFuel container had 110 fluid ounces of fuel initially but was nearly empty when discovered by investigators. Oliver said in the documents it appeared someone used the fuel to start the fire.
Home Depot officials estimated the cost of the destruction to be $6 million to $7 million, according to a Spokane Police Department news release.
The fire and water damage inside the store, which has since reopened, affected multiple aisles, documents said.
The documents said Calvert, a 33-year-old man and another woman arrived that night at the Home Depot parking lot in a 2005 Ford F-150. Calvert retrieved a shopping cart, and she and the other woman entered the store.
Spokane police’s news release identified the other woman as 26-year-old Sierra D. Fry, who police arrested Wednesday. Fry is charged with suspicion of retail theft with special circumstances for her alleged involvement in two separate thefts not related to the alleged Spokane Home Depot theft and fire.
Calvert concealed something in her cart under a blanket she brought into the store with her, documents said. She later told police the concealed item was a roll of wire that had black sheathing on it. She estimated the wire at around $400.
Calvert allegedly asked a store employee how she might determine what inside the store is flammable.
She then left the garden center. As she went back into the main store, she appeared to leave her cart near the end of Aisle 1, documents said surveillance footage shows.
Cameras lost view of Calvert for four minutes, between 9:18 and 9:22 p.m. During those four minutes, Calvert would have been able to start the fire in Aisle 2, according to court records.
As Calvert comes back into the store camera’s view around 9:22 p.m., she “casually” informed two employees of the fire, documents said. At that point, Calvert appeared to have a BIC lighter in her hand that she accidentally dropped and picked up.
She then “casually” left the store with the stolen items in the cart. Calvert and the other man involved reportedly loaded the stolen items from the cart into the bed of the truck they arrived in before driving away.
Calvert made her first court appearance Tuesday and is scheduled for an arraignment next Tuesday in front of Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tony Hazel.
Calvert has 21 felony convictions, including possession of a controlled substance, forgery, identity theft and taking a vehicle without permission. Four of her seven gross misdemeanor convictions were third-degree theft.