PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A woman has been arrested in connection with the apartment fire that left at least eight hospitalized and many without residence, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
“Detectives as well as TVF&R Fire investigators began their investigation and they did determine that the fire had been caused intentionally,” said Brandon Toney with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
In the early hours of Saturday, Oct. 29, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue responded to a blaze that had erupted inside an apartment building on Southwest Barnes Road in Cedar Mill. Firefighters were able to rescue people and pets from the fire, but multiple hospitalizations were reported. Some residents even leapt from second story windows and balconies.
Roughly two dozen residents were displaced, although they have been offered new temporary residence by property management. There were no deaths.
Following an investigation by Washington County Sheriff’s Office Detectives and TVF&R, it was determined that the fire was set intentionally.
On Wednesday, detectives arrested 51-year-old Wendy Kay Southam. Southam now faces charges of first-degree arson, second-degree animal abuse, second- degree assault and first- degree criminal mischief.
“There was a huge fire just coming out of the apartment. It was raining but the fire kept getting ignited and more fire trucks kept coming,” said neighbor Taiya Essex. “I’m not that surprised because I saw so many cops outside but it was a big fire so I’m not sure how it could have started naturally.”
“It’s scary to think that someone would do that to other people and make all of these people move out and it’s affecting us too cause everyone’s gone and it’s dark and scary,” added Taiya’s sister Jasmine Essex.
While records show Southam lived at the complex at one point, deputies could not confirm if she was a current resident at the time of the fire or provide a motive.
One of the displaced residents told KOIN 6 News about the woman accused of starting the fire.
“I am not surprised but I am also incredibly heartbroken for everyone who has been affected by this emotionally and physically. When we jumped out of our window and ran to safety one of the first people we came into contact with was the person who is now arrested. She kept rocking back and forth while sitting on a curb and repeating ‘it’s all my fault,'” she said.
The neighbor said she wanted to remain anonymous out of “fear of retaliation.”
The investigation remains open, and anyone with information to offer is urged to call the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Detectives at 503-846-2700.