By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
Investigators are re-thinking the string of fires that struck Centralia churches and other buildings two weeks ago, classifying all of them now as either arson or undetermined.
In a three-hour span during the early morning hours of May 3, crews were called to four structure fires and then after daylight, learned of a failed attempt at a fifth location.
They still have no suspects or motive.
Initially, a 4 a.m. fire that damaged a wall at Calvary Chapel on Seward Avenue in north Centralia was believed to be caused by an electrical issue, but authorities are reexamining that conclusion in part because of the timing, according to Riverside Fire Authority Assistant Chief Rick Mack.
“It strains credulity to think that it isn’t somehow involved,” Mack said today.
The other undetermined fire is one that struck a coffee stand in north Chehalis at 1 o’clock that morning. Flames were quickly knocked down and while an investigator was considering the possibility of a cigarette butt in a trash can, Mack said they just don’t have enough information to say if it was one thing or another.
Clearly arson and attempted arson were Centralia fires that did minor to moderate damage at the rectory-turned teen center of the Centralia Church of the Nazarene, Cooks Hill Community Church and Centerville, the western store at the north end of the Centralia Outlets, according to Mack.
Authorities are once again seeking the public’s assistance to find who is responsible.
None of the targets have suggested a person they think police should talk to, Mack said.
Mack spoke of chatter on social media that might reveal clues.
“We just encourage people, if they hear anything even if it seems unlikely or remote, we’d like to hear about it,” Mack said today.
No suspicious fires have been reported in the area since that night, but Mack pointed out the burned siding on Cooks Hill Community Church that wasn’t spotted until 10 a.m. that day.
“There may be fires that were set but not discovered,” he said.
He suggested some folks might want to take a look around the exterior of their buildings.
Mack said he, Fire Chief Jim Walkowski and the Centralia Police Department would each be happy to hear from anyone with information.
Crime Stoppers of Lewis County is also calling upon anyone with information to consider making an anonymous phone call to them, at 1-800-748-6422 or leaving a tip online at www.lewiscountycrimestoppers.org
For background, read “Arson: String of Centralia fires under investigation” from Friday May 3, 2013, here