Tacoma pagoda fire ruled arson; authorities respond to another suspicious fire at Pt. Defiance

Apr 19, 2011

As authorities investigate the arson at Tacoma's landmark pagoda building, police say another fire was set Monday night at a Point Defiance Park restroom.

A security guard locking up the restrooms found a trash can on fire about 9:35 p.m. Monday night. The guard pulled the can outside and called the Tacoma Fire Department, Fulghum said. Firefighters doused the blaze.

Meantime, there is no suspect or known motive for the pagoda fire. There were no witnesses to the fire that was discovered early Friday by a park worker. The pagoda also had been vandalized a week earlier. Forensic specialists called to the break-in and the fires will compare their investigations of each.  Police spokesman Mark Fulghum told The News Tribune's Stacey Mulick:

"It looked like someone had gained entry into the building." A wedding rehearsal took place the night before the Pagoda fire, but Fulghum said investigators do not belive it caused the fire.

"Based on damages and other things inside, that was eliminated."

Fire damage is estimated at $500,000.

The 97-year-old pagoda in the park's Japanese garden is a replica of a 17th century Japanese lodge. It's a favored site for weddings, memorial services and parties.

Monday night's fire is the latest in a string of suspicious blazes at Point Defiance Park. Three garbage cans were set on fire at Owen Beach on April 11 and were quickly extinguished.

Tacoma-Pierce County Crime Stoppers is offering an award of up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest and charges in this case. You can reach Crime Stoppers at (253) 591-5959