The burned-out remains of a huge truck and an expensive excavator loomed above a Kenmore construction site Wednesday, evidence of the latest...
The burned-out remains of a huge truck and an expensive excavator loomed above a Kenmore construction site Wednesday, evidence of the latest in a string of arsons that have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the area in the past month.
Investigators say they don’t know if the arsons are related, but all involve fires set in the cabs of heavy equipment at residential construction sites.
“They certainly could be related,” said Capt. Denise Langford of the Bothell Police Department. “There are obvious similarities.”
The fires began in late November at locations within about five miles of each other in the Bothell and Kenmore areas.
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In the latest incident, a trackhoe — or excavator — and an oversized off-road dump truck called a Moby were set on fire at a construction site at Northeast 200th Street and 76th Avenue Northeast, just north of downtown Kenmore, about 8:45 p.m. Tuesday.
“The cabs were burned up,” said Jim Torpin, deputy chief for operations for the Northshore Fire Department. But, he added, “There’s nothing to indicate they’re related, other than they’re similar.”
Torpin said damage was estimated at $180,000 in the Tuesday blaze and that the fires are among incidents that have destroyed seven pieces of construction equipment since Thanksgiving.
The earlier blazes took place Nov. 25 in the 19700 block of the Bothell-Everett Highway, and Nov. 29 at a construction site in the 23300 block of Fitzgerald Road in the Bothell section of Snohomish County, just east of Interstate 405 in the Canyon Park area.
Torpin said investigators are considering possibilities that include everything from vandalism to an individual or group opposed to this type of development, in investigating the blazes, but there are no obvious clues. Investigators also haven’t discovered anything indicating the fires are related to recent arrests in Oregon of people suspected of environmental sabotage in setting fires at places including the University of Washington.
Contractors are concerned about the incidents.
“It’s expensive,” said John Thomas, a consultant with Bobby Wolford Trucking, which owned a month-old excavator destroyed in the Kenmore fires.
He estimated the loss in the Kenmore fires at several hundred-thousand dollars, noting the excavator — or power shovel — sells for about $140,000 and a used Moxy 35-ton haul truck, with tires about 6 feet tall, like the one damaged Tuesday, is worth about $50,000.
Besides that, he said, there are added costs, including down time while work is interrupted, the expense of removing and replacing the equipment and renting replacement gear.
At the arson site along the Bothell-Everett Highway, Timber Bliss, project manager for Summit General Construction, estimated the destruction of equipment there at about $100,000.
Two of his trackhoes burned in November are still on the site; he hasn’t been able to arrange to have them moved, and he has had to rent equipment to replace them.
Bliss also noted there are similarities in the arsons, including that they all occurred about 8 p.m.
“They all take place around a certain time of the evening,” he said. “People go inside then to watch TV and have dinner, but it’s not so late it’s conspicuous for someone to be at a job site.
“Terrorists is what they are,” he said. “It’s methodically thought through.”
Each fire has been set at a residential construction site, with the Kenmore fires taking place on a 15-acre tract where work started about three weeks ago. The Bothell-Everett Highway blaze was at a project where work started in October on a 50-lot development where homes will sell for $500,000 or more. The Fitzgerald Road work is a smaller development near several technology-company sites along I-405.
The fires are under investigation by several agencies, including the Bothell Police and Fire departments and the King County fire-investigation unit of the Department of Development and Environmental Services.
Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call 911. A reward of up to $10,000 is offered through a statewide arson hotline at 800-55-ARSON for information leading to the arrest and conviction of suspects in the blazes.
Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or email@example.com