The Roundup: Police Nab Eastside Dumpster Fire Culprit; Kent Buys 22 SUVs

A weekly roundup of regional news

• A 56-year-old homeless man who allegedly started fires in as many as two dozen dumpsters early morning on Aug. 15 near Northeast 20th Street in Bellevue and Redmond was arrested.

The Bellevue and Redmond police departments responded to the incidents after reports came in about two fires behind the IHOP in that area at around 12:45 a.m. on Aug 15. In total, officers located 12 dumpster fires in Bellevue and 10-12 fires on the other side of 148th Avenue Northeast in Redmond.

As officers searched the area for more fires and witnesses, they located a witness who identified the suspect and stated that he was in a wooded area nearby. Based on this tip, police requested assistance from King County Sheriff’s Guardian One helicopter, which arrived and located the suspect.

Bellevue officers eventually arrested the suspect for criminal trespass and second degree arson and booked him into jail. “Based on the proximity of the fires, we believe he is the only suspect involved,” Bellevue police public information officer, Seth Tyler said.

According to police, no structures were damaged other than the dumpsters. — Bellevue Reporter

• A proposed sales tax increase to fund mental health programs, funding for firearms training, storage, homeless shelters, and police initiatives will be on the ballot this fall for Kirkland voters.

The tax increase resolution, known as R-5324, would use a .01 percent increase in the local sales tax to bring in an estimated $1.8 million annually. If passed, the tax increase would fund a variety of public-safety oriented positions, programs, and resources. The city would dedicate $680,000 from the annual tax revenues to a five-member police Pro-Act unit; $320,000 to four full-time school resource officers (SROs); $140,000 to a neighborhood resource officer; $120,000 to a full-time mental health professional; $350,000 to support mental health programs; $100,000 to firearm safety training and storage; and $100,000 to support women and family shelters.

The one city-employed mental health professional that R-5324 will fund will help police respond to emergency calls involving individuals with mental health complications. The professional will also support police and emergency responders when dealing with domestic violence, suicide attempts and assisting homeless individuals.

The Pro-Act unit that the tax will fund will focus on specific crimes and types of policing, such as drug dens, car prowls, and enforcing high-risk protection orders and gun forfeitures. On a related note, the tax will also fund firearm safety training for Kirkland residents and provision of safe storage options for local firearm owners. — Kirkland Reporter

• The City of Kent has filed a rush order of 22 new police SUVs for $1.3 million in order to save around $3,000 per car.

The funding for the new vehicles comes from a combination of the school zone traffic camera fund (this pot will finance the purchase of 15 vehicles with $930,000) and the city fleet reserve fund, which will pay for the remaining seven. The rush order stems from the fact that Ford is updating its SUV design next year, increasing the cars’ price.

A new initiative designed to prevent wear and tare on police vehicles by equipping each officer with their own car called the car-per-office, take-home program that was approved by the Kent City Council in May is the impetus for the acquisition. Through the program, the city has already purchased 14 new police vehicles earlier this year to the tune of $868,000.

The council is expected to approve the purchases this week. “The opportunity for us to save money – especially this amount of money – is good for the city going into the issues with our budget,” said Councilwoman Toni Troutner, chair of the Public Safety Committee, at a Aug. 14 meeting where the spending plan got moved forward. — Kent Reporter

• Firefighters worked to contain a large, moving brush fire near Highway 18 in the Covington/Maple Valley area on Sunday Aug. 19 that threatened property and shut down the highway for several hours, according Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority reported.

The fire was called in at 4:02 p.m. on Aug. 19 on 188th Avenue Southeast in Kent. When the first fire truck arrived, the blaze was growing and moving toward a nearby home and into thick brush. It grew steadily over the next few hours, prompting requests for additional units and lane closures on Highway 18. A helicopter was eventually deployed with a water bucket to stop the blaze. While no one was injured in the fire and all nearby buildings and homes avoided damage, the fire was estimated to be 10 to 12 acres in size, authorities said.

Cause of the fire is unknown. Officials are investigating. — Kent Reporter

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