PORT ORCHARD — Following investigative work conducted by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and the county fire marshal, a 34-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday, Oct. 11 in connection with several South Kitsap fires that occurred earlier this month and in September.
Clark Derry Briggs, a resident of Gig Harbor, was arrested by sheriff’s deputies at the 1900 block of Southeast Sedgwick Road in South Kitsap under suspicion of being involved in four fires during that time: a house fire on Southeast Cedar Road on Sept. 5; a brush, debris and fence fire along Woods Road on Oct. 4; a brush fire along Farmer Dell Road on Oct. 5; and an improvised device fire on Oct. 7, also along Farmer Dell Road.
Briggs appeared in Kitsap County Superior Court Friday, Oct. 12 and was charged with second-degree arson on a warrant of arrest for failure to appear, plus contempt of court on an unknown charge. Total bail was set at $160,100. The county prosecuting attorney declined to charge him on a first-degree arson count.
“These were dangerous fires,” said David Lynam, county fire marshal and manager of the Kitsap County Building and Fire Safety Division.
“In one instance, a propane tank was hidden under debris in a garbage can on the side of the road and lit on fire,” he said. “The firefighters had no idea of the potential danger when they arrived — they thought it was a routine garbage-can fire. Our fire marshals and detectives did a terrific job bringing the case to a quick resolution.”
Deputy Scott Wilson, the Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said South Kitsap Fire and Rescue personnel advised an onsite deputy of the propane tank inside a rolling garbage bin. They reported that the tank had been doused with gasoline. Detectives later surmised the suspect had attempted to construct a version of a Molotov cocktail device using the garbage bin and propane tank.
Wilson said fire detectives also located remnants of drug paraphernalia, including a tourniquet, a syringe needle cap, an empty needle bag, alcohol wipes and bloody bandages.
According to court records, Briggs’ ex-girlfriend said she believed he had started the fires. She told a sheriff’s office detective Oct. 11 that each time Briggs would appear at the property next to Woods Road and Farmer Dell Road where she and her new boyfriend were staying, a fire would break out nearby. The woman told the detective that Briggs was upset that she was seeing a new man.
The detective later received a tip that the suspect would be arriving at the Fred Meyer store on Sedgwick. Briggs, who had a warrant for his arrest out of the Gig Harbor Police Department with a suspended license, was arrested at the store’s parking lot by the detective without incident.
Det. Timothy Keeler of the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office wrote that carpet padding in Briggs’ pickup truck matched material found at the arson scenes. He also discovered the same type of white plastic jugs in the truck bed that was used in the second arson fire on Oct. 7.
The suspect is scheduled to appear at an omnibus hearing Nov. 9, with a trial scheduled for Dec. 3 in Superior Court.