Alleged arsonist started string of Pierce County fires

FirePIERCE COUNTY — Three fires  that broke out early this morning in Midland are each being treated as an arson, firefighters said. Police have arrested a suspect.

Central Pierce County fire crews responded to the first fire around 12:30 a.m. Thursday morning at a house in the 9000 block of 18th Avenue East.  When crews arrived on the scene, the fire had engulfed around 50 percent of the home, officers said. Investigators said the house was abandon.

While crews battled the house fire, nearby neighbors reported another fire at the Golgotha Baptist Church near 85th Street and Portland Avenue. Fire crews responded and found a fire on the exterior of the building that quickly moved into the roof.  It fire grew fast and eventually 50 firefighters battled the 3-alarm blaze. They managed to contain the fire, but officials say the fire is a total loss.

Firefighters also spotted a car on fire and quickly put it out.  No one was hurt in any of the fires, but the amount of damage caused by the fires was unknown.

Fire investigators are on the scene.

Pierce County sheriff’s deputies combed the area for a possible arson suspect soon after the fires because they believed three fires in such a short area had to be the work of an arsonist. Deputies spotted a 30-year-old man walking on the side of the road near the church and, a nearby resident told deputies that man had broken into his home just a short time ago.

Deputies took the man into custody and believe he might be involved in the three fires. Authorities believe an accelerant such as gasoline was used to spark the fires. The suspect is expected to be charged with three counts of arson and two counts of burglary because police say he broke into the church to start the fires.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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