A man has been charged with first-degree arson after starting a fire inside a Bremerton motel Sept. 18, leading to the displacement of around 50 people.
Over half of the rooms at the Midway Inn on Wheaton Way were booked at the time of the blaze, which was reported at 4:22 a.m. Firefighters were able to contain the blaze to just a single unit on the second floor and the hallway, but the damage has forced people like Karin Reutebuch out of their homes. She had been staying there for a year-and-a-half.
“We’d seen the flames coming out of the window,” she said. “The floor is destroyed. I mean, they say we can go back in a few days, but that’s nonsense.”
One of the rooms was rented by 33-year-old Mark Ryan Langdon, motel records show. He had been staying there since Sept. 16. Officers said Langdon has serious mental health issues, and allegedly started the fire.
Langdon reportedly told police he started the fire by lighting a blanket in the room on fire with a cigarette lighter that police later found on him. Langdon was booked into the Kitsap County Jail in Port Orchard Sept. 19 and was being held on $500,000 bail.
Reutebuch said that firefighters helped the displaced people. “The firefighters put me in a wheelchair,” she said, “carted me to Saar’s, and they had chairs set up for us inside so we were not exposed to the weather.”
The group of about 50 people was then transported to the Silverdale United Methodist Church, where the South Puget Sound and Olympics Chapter of the American Red Cross activated an emergency disaster shelter. Pastor John Weston said that the church received the call at 8:30 a.m, just hours before Sunday worship.
“It happened pretty quickly,” he said, “and we’ve got a team of folks that are pretty dedicated to making sure that we’re ready to help out in situations like this.”
The victims were provided with basic needs such as food and clothing, along with a place to stay in the emergency shelter. Having a place to go with so many victims is something that Daniel Wirth, executive director of the Red Cross chapter, said is important for emergency responses. “We depend on our community partners to open their facilities in times of need like this.”
The concern for victims such as Reuteuch is now focused on finding a more permanent home to go to. She said that as someone with no family and not many housing options in Kitsap County, the search will not be easy.
“My daughter died from COVID last October,” she said. “So I’m by myself now, and I paid $1,400 rent in this motel.”
The search is something that Wirth said the Red Cross will assist with in coming days while continuing to provide temporary shelter for the victims.
“We want to work with the location where the fire occurred to determine if they have any plans and then also, you know, work with our individual clients to work out a transition plan for them. We want to ensure that they go back to housing that was at the same level or better than what they just left.”
Weston said that the church will continue to work with the Red Cross, saying that the church is prepared to serve its community. “Jesus had a big thing for the least of these, and so we look to follow in His footsteps,” he said.