Arson alert brings award to Enumclaw woman

Because Rachel Kirk stepped forward an arsonist served time for his crime.

Kirk was honored for her bravery during a Dec. 7 ceremony at the Enumclaw Fire Department headquarters. She also received a $1,000 Arson Award from Northwest Insurance Council and Arson Alarm Foundation.

Kirk provided investigators with key information that led to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist who torched his own foreclosed Enumclaw home Jan. 9. Damage is estimated at nearly $350,000.

“It takes a lot of courage for someone to call in a tip,” said Ann Buettner, Arson Alarm Foundation interim president, who presented the award. “They don’t know how it will affect their lives.”

Kirk admits she was hesitant.

“Doing the right thing is not easy,” she said. “There was no obligation. No one knew I knew anything. It was my conscience.”

She said her thoughts kept going to the first responders who risked their lives fighting something deliberately set.

“That’s not what they’re here to do,” she said.

“Firefighters can be injured fighting a needless fire,” said Craig Muller, fire investigator/unit supervisor with the King County Sheriff’s Office, who was on hand for the ceremony.

“When she came to us she was truly scared,” Muller said. “She came to us and wanted to do the right thing.”

“It was really scary,” Kirk said. Backed by her fiancé©, family and community members, she stepped forward to encourage other people to do the same.

“We need more involvement with our citizens,” Muller said.

“The public’s help is essential,” Tom Devine, also a King County Sheriff‚Äôs Office fire/arson investigator.

To date this year, King County has investigated 283 fires; 131 were arsons, totalling $1.2 million in losses. Two-thirds of arsons are started by juveniles, the remainder by adults.

Devine said the division is still investigating fires at Westwood Elementary School, the most recent a couple months ago, and would be, “happy to put a name in for a reward.”

“Small fires eventually lead to bigger fires,” Enumclaw/District 28 Chief Joe Clow said.

Buettner said the Arson Award Fund supports local fire departments and law enforcement’s efforts because of arson‚Äôs economic impact on insurance. Arson Alarm Foundation is a nonprofit organization that seeks to reduce loss of life and property by increasing arson awareness in Washington.

“To watch a family rummaging through the remains of their home trying to salvage a piece of their lives is devastating,” Buettner said.