Suspected double arson in Port Orchard, 16-year-old arrested

The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has reported that a male juvenile connected to two suspected arson fires at a Port Orchard storage facility and nearby home was taken into custody Feb. 22.

Fire agencies across Kitsap County responded overnight to assist in containing a three-alarm fire that caused varying levels of damage in multiple structures at Port Orchard Self Storage off Lund Avenue near the Jackson Avenue intersection.

Alerts for a commercial fire went out via PulsePoint at 10:11 p.m. Feb. 21., the first engine arriving on scene at 10:19 p.m., and the fire was swiftly upgraded to the three-alarm status just after 11 p.m. according to SKFR public information officer Laine Desilets.

Eyewitness video captured in the nearby 7-11 shows smoke filling the hazy air as firefighters worked to combat the flames.

“Thirty-two apparatus and approximately 64 personnel were on site,” Desilets said. “South Kitsap, Bremerton, Central (Kitsap), Puget Sound Federal Fire assisted. We did have backfill of our stations from Poulsbo (North Kitsap Fire and Rescue) and Gig Harbor.”

Around twelve hours after the first fire’s reported containment around 2 a.m. Feb. 22, firefighters and police responded to a second fire that afternoon at a home by the intersection of Jackson Avenue and Summer Place.

The house fire was so close to the original scene, which officials say was already under investigation by KCSO and the Kitsap Fire Marshall for arson, that the person who called 911 had to assure dispatch that it was in fact a different fire.

“We were meeting my friend to go walk our dogs together,” said Port Orchard resident and 911 caller Wendi Clanton. “We were driving by, and my son happened to look over and see smoke coming out from the house.”

“I left (where I was) right away and drove,” said Michelle Abutin, who was away when she heard her and her husband’s house was filled with smoke. “I wasn’t going to run the red light and all that, but I didn’t care. I wanted to be here.”

Using information from the public and social media posts made by the suspect, KCSO said detectives were able to identify and find the 16-year-old suspect at his residence. He was taken into custody and booked into the Kitsap County Juvenile Detention facility on suspicion of first-degree arson, residential burglary and malicious mischief.

“Rough estimate at this time is about two dozen units that have some damage varying from smoke and water to fire damage,” Desilets said, who confirmed the fire had been active in two separate buildings. For the house, “We’ve got heavy heat and smoke damage on the second floor with water damage to the first floor.”

Anthony Cutler at the nearby Uncle Dave’s Cafe found himself counting his blessings that morning, lucky that the establishment’s dry storage and building as a whole had gone untouched. “There’s a lot of money in those boxes, both of our sheds, but two over one of our regular customers got hit. You could see the water running out of it,” he said.

No injuries were reported in either incident, a lucky thing according to Desilets due to the uncertainties that come with a storage unit facility fire.

“We obviously don’t know what’s in them or how full the units are at the time,” she said. “There are times when people have been known to live in storage units, so that obviously is a concern of ours.”

Port Orchard Self Storage declined to comment on the incident.