Firefighters are warning Yakima supermarkets to be on the lookout for an arsonist who has been setting fires at night. Since May 12, fires...

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YAKIMA — Firefighters are warning Yakima supermarkets to be on the lookout for an arsonist who has been setting fires at night.

Since May 12, fires have broken out on loading docks behind stores, including two Safeways and Wray’s Food and Drug. Damage from what investigators are calling “crimes of opportunity” is estimated at $20,000.

“No one has been hurt so far,” said Ron Melcher, Yakima assistant fire marshal. “But you never know when that is going to change.”

The most recent arson was about 1:30 a.m. Sunday when three fires were lit in the 5600 block of Summitview Avenue. One was behind ShopKo, another behind Wray’s, and a third in a Dumpster between the two.

“Whoever’s doing this went from lighting one fire a night to three in quick succession, and that’s cause for alarm.” said Wray’s owner Chris Brown. “One day he’s going to do a lot more damage or hurt somebody.”

Brown’s store saw the most damage, about $15,000 in losses, when wood pallets and cardboard boxes in the back were ignited.

Melcher said fire crews Monday finished visits to more than a dozen other stores warning them to keep combustible materials stacked inside if possible, or away from the side of the building if they must use outside space.

The first supermarket fire was May 12 on the loading dock of the Safeway near South 56th and Summitview avenues.

The next day, a fire broke out at the Safeway near 24th Avenue and Nob Hill Boulevard.

Investigators are also looking into two non-supermarket fires started under similar circumstances.

They include an apartment fire May 14 that forced the evacuation of the complex and a garage fire May 15 that destroyed a sport-utility vehicle.

No one was hurt in either fire, though damage was estimated at $40,000.

Each of the supermarket fires started about 1:30 to 2 a.m., while the apartment and garage fires began between 5 and 8 p.m.

Arson investigators say the fires are similar because all involved the burning of fuels found on site.

“It would seem to indicate that one person or one group is involved,” Melcher said.

“We’re following up on what information we have but … we’ve got to have help. Just keep an eye out for your neighbor, and as a general housekeeping rule keep things cleaned up outside to limit fuel for burning.”

Anyone with information on any of the fires should call fire investigators at 509-575-6140 or 1-800-55 ARSON.

Rod Antone can be reached at 577-7628 or at rantone@yakimaherald.com