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A veteran Seattle firefighter was charged Tuesday in Whatcom County Superior Court with three counts of third-degree child rape and one count of unlawfully harboring a minor for allegedly engaging in a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl he met through a community arts group.

Firefighter Michael Sulak, 52, made his first court appearance on Thursday, before official charges were filed, court records show. He was released from custody that day and as of Tuesday, he was not listed as an inmate in the Whatcom County Jail.

According to charging documents, the girl’s father contacted Lynden police because he was worried his daughter “might be having a relationship with an adult,” and turned over an iPod the girl allegedly used to communicate with Sulak. It appears the girl listed Sulak’s information under a contact entitled “Lover” on the iPod, the papers say.

Sulak and the girl began to grow close in November, according to charging papers. She told officers she had flirted with Sulak, once hiding his cellphone in her bra, prompting him to reach in and retrieve it, the papers say.

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The girl and Sulak twice had sex at a high school during an event there, according to the charges.

The girl, who turned 16 in January, ran away from home for four days in December, and her father reported her to police as a runaway, the papers say.

During that time, Sulak called the father and said the girl had shown up at his house and asked for a ride to a church function, something the girl also claimed in a phone call to her parents, according to the charges.

But the two actually had sex. Photos that the girl took of herself were seen by detectives later on the iPod, the papers say.

The girl then asked Sulak to take her to Seattle for two days while he was at work, and though he tried to talk her out of it, Sulak eventually agreed, according to the papers.

While in Seattle, the two had sex in Sulak’s truck in a parking lot near his Queen Anne fire station, the papers say.

When the girl returned home, her parents grounded her and she hid her communications with Sulak, say the papers. One of the last text messages Sulak sent the girl “discussed how he feared losing her,” the papers say.

On Tuesday, the Seattle Fire Department released a statement saying the agency is aware of the arrest of a Seattle firefighter. The statement does not identify Sulak by name, but was emailed in response to an inquiry about him.

According to the department’s statement, the firefighter in question — who works at Fire Station 8 — has been on disability for an injury since Feb. 8 and is now on paid administrative leave.

Sulak was hired in January 1999 and grossed $102,794 in 2012, according to a database of city employees. He lives in Ferndale.

Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654

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