Less than a week after a fire gutted three townhomes in Mountlake Terrace — killing two women and displacing six residents – someone burglarized the boarded-up residences.
Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Michael Haynes said that the fire victims – who were forced to leave after the blaze heavily damaged their homes on July 3 – reported that electronics, jewelry, firearms, money and other miscellaneous items were stolen during a burglary sometime July 9.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, South County Fire spokesperson Leslie Hynes said.
Commander Haynes said that police do maintain regular regular police patrols and check on vacant properties, and that includes fire-damaged residences.
In general, he advised that when people have to leave their homes due to fire, boarding up possible entryways and maintaining a presence on the property can help. But the three townhouses present a “somewhat unique situation,” he said.
“I’m uncertain if the option existed for these individuals, but I recommend residents do their best to secure the property when it will be unoccupied for any period of time and utilize security devices whenever possible,” Haynes said. “At a minimum, if possible, if the residence will be vacant for any sustained period of time, secure or remove small, but attractive items, including firearms. It could also help to alert nearby family and friends of the situation and ask them to help keep an eye on things as well.”
Haynes said that stolen property, other than the firearms, will regularly show up on websites such as Craigslist or OfferUp, along with local pawn shops being the most common place to find tools. He said that victims who check these apps and sites over the two weeks following the robbery will start seeing their items posted.
“If property is located online or in a pawn shop, call 911 and let us know about it,” Haynes said.
Haynes also advised keeping photos and serial numbers of high-value items because it assists police in their search for the stolen property. Further, police put serial numbers for stolen property in regional and national databases.
“Anytime a law enforcement officer anywhere in the country runs the serial number, it will come back as stolen,” Haynes said. “This is how we frequently recover stolen firearms.”
Friends and family of the fire victims — Donna Richie, Erica Farnsworth and Pam O’Hara — have created GoFundMe accounts to help them recover from their losses. O’Hara’s 85-year-old mother Audrey O’Hara and 63-year-old sister Terry O’Hara died in the fire.
— By Rick Sinnett