A 22-year-old man arrested in connection with a fire set near K Records on the Fourth of July has become a person of interest in Tuesday’s downtown Olympia warehouse fire.
Joshua J. Purdue is suspected of setting fire to an outbuilding at K Records at 802 Jefferson St. SE. After interviewing him, Olympia police say he has become a person of interest in the fire that destroyed a warehouse on Adams Street early Tuesday, as well as in several other downtown Olympia fires.
Perdue appeared in Thurston County Superior Court on Wednesday, and Judge James Dixon found probable cause for one criminal charge: second-degree arson. He set bail at $50,000. Perdue remains in the Thurston County jail.
Lt. Paul Lower, of the Olympia Police Department, said that during an interview with police, Perdue provided “suspicious details” about the Adams Street fire.
“He gives details that only a person who was present would have known,” Lower said. “So we have no doubt that he was there.”
Perdue allegedly provided suspicious details about six other fires:
▪ Two fires in an alley in downtown Olympia behind a pizza restaurant
▪ Two fires in an alley behind Fish Tale Brewery
▪ A fire at a self-service fuel station at 303 Thurston Ave.
▪ A fire at a business at 416 State Ave.
According to court documents, Perdue was identified as a suspect in the K Records fire when he was captured in security video footage of the scene. The footage showed a man in a heavy jacket and multi-colored striped beanie entering and leaving the alley where the fire was set.
The fire was reported about 30 minutes later.
On Tuesday, an Olympia officer was near the Olympia Timberland Library when he saw a man wearing what appeared to be the same hat and jacket, according to court documents. He was identified as Perdue and agreed to talk to police.
Perdue allegedly told police that he has been labeled a “pyro” by his mother, and that he had set his family home on fire several times as a juvenile, according to court documents. He admitted to setting a brush fire at his former school when he was a juvenile. He referred to fire as his “friend.”
He said that he had recently relapsed and started using methamphetamine.
Perdue denied entering the alley where the K Records fire was set — but said he had walked past the building several times, according to court documents.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Office of Assigned Counsel attorney Phil Griffith told Dixon that Perdue “adamantly denies these charges.” Perdue recently moved to Thurston County from California, and has no criminal history in Washington state. Dixon said he’s unsure whether Perdue has criminal history in California.
Meanwhile, Olympia firefighters were called back to the downtown Olympia warehouse site at 2:33 a.m. Wednesday when the fire there reignited.
Fire broke out in the inaccessible southwest corner of the burned building. A hot spot had been hidden underneath a pile of debris, said Deputy Chief Greg Wright of the Olympia Fire Department. The debris pile caused significant runoff, which blocked water from reaching the hot spot when firefighters were battling the blaze early Tuesday morning.
“When there is a big pile of burn material and water can’t infiltrate it, then it can get hot enough to turn into flames,” Wright said. “It’s always possible, and that’s why we checked it multiple times yesterday.”
However, the warehouse was too unstable for investigators to go inside Tuesday. The site was last checked at 10 p.m., but the hot spot was invisible and continued to heat up, Wright said.
A passer-by called 911 to report flames, and firefighters arrived at 2:38 a.m. No firefighters entered the charred building, but crews poured in water from outside the walls.
Preliminary damage estimates are $350,000 for the building and $500,000 for the contents.
The building was built before 1920 as part of a lumber mill and housed several tenants over the years. Most recently, it was a storage warehouse for a local fuel company, with local beverage-maker Magic Kombucha and a woodworking shop renting space.