The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Base Lewis-McChord Directorate of Emergency Services and the bases Criminal Investigation Division are investigating five residential fires on the installation that have displaced seven military families since June, Col. H. Charles Hodges Jr. told JBLM residents at a town hall meeting Tuesday evening.
Hodges gathered JBLM housing residents at French Theater to share information about measures the command had taken to examine the evidence in a string of recent house fires that has the community on edge.
Estimated damages are at least $1 million, said Todd Vasko, managing director of Equity Residential, JBLMs privatized family housing contractor. Officials said no residents have been injured, but several family pets perished.
Hodges assured the residents the electrical systems in their homes are safe and were not contributing factors in the fires.
There is no concern from my mind or the investigators that any of the homes are unsafe, he said. None of the investigations revolve around electrical problems or structural issues.
While the investigation is ongoing, Hodges said some individuals central to the investigation were identified and have been removed from JBLM. Those people will not be allowed to return until the case is closed and a cause is determined, Hodges said.
The first residential fire was reported around 2:30 a.m. June 9. It consumed a duplex at 2478 Mann Ave. and melted the vinyl siding off the side of the duplex next door. The fire also destroyed a car inside a carport and damaged two cars parked on the street.
A second house fire was reported at 3:30 a.m. June 16, just one block away at 2436 Stryker Ave. The damage was mostly contained to the garage, but smoke from the blaze caused extensive smoke damage inside the home.
A third house fire was reported just after 5 a.m. July 29 at 5557 N. 5th St. The fire destroyed a duplex and two cars in Davis Hill housing. One occupants service dog died.
The two most recent fires occurred last week. No one was home Aug. 6 at 9264 Eagle Circle Drive in Evergreen housing when a fire was reported around noon, said JBLM Fire Chief Dean Dixon. The fire was contained to the garage, but there was heavy smoke damage to the rest of the home. Another fire was reported close to 4 a.m. Aug. 8 at 2852B Monfore Dr. in Clarkdale housing. The blaze was contained to the carport, but there was smoke damage to the home.
All the fires originated in carports or garages, and four of the five incidents were reported at night.
Fire investigators determined initial causes of the June 9 and June 16 fires, but Hodges said the recent incidents motivated investigators to reopen the first two cases. Hodges advised residents to expect to see more law enforcement officers soon; the command has stepped up police presence in JBLM family neighborhoods until the investigation is complete.