Blowtorch-wielding man arrested after setting several trees on fire near Bethesda Church

Several trees were set on fire Aug. 5 by a man with a blowtorch near Bethesda Church. (Photo courtesy of Dustin DeKoekkoek)

A Mountlake Terrace man was arrested for arson Wednesday night after police said he started several fires with a blowtorch that caused minor damage to vegetation, a power pole and a vehicle.

Around 9 p.m., Mountlake Terrace police responded to multiple reports of a man in the 5600 block of 234th Street Southwest setting fire to trees near Bethesda Church. When police arrived on the scene, several large trees were fully engulfed with 30-foot flames. The 60-year-old suspect told police he was using the blowtorch in self defense, said MLT Police Chief Pete Caw.

“He told witnesses he was attempting to defend himself from subjects attacking him,” he said. “There were no subjects found.”

By the time South County Fire arrived, the fire had begun extending to a residential home occupied by an elderly couple and their 5-year-old granddaughter. Police said the family vacated the residence on their own and fire crews quickly extinguished the fire before it reached the house.

No injuries were reported. The exterior of a vehicle received minor heat damage, but it did not catch fire, said South County Fire spokesperson Leslie Hynes. The estimated value of the damage is under $10,000 and the incident is still under investigation, she added.

The suspect was booked into Snohomish County Jail for first-degree arson.

–By Cody Sexton

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