TUMWATER - A November fire that caused millions of dollars in damage and destroyed part of a call center where nearly 600 people worked is being investigated as a possible arson, court papers state.
A disgruntled employee was acting suspiciously when the fire started, an unsealed search warrant affidavit states. The employee also gave a statement to an investigator after the fire that conflicted with other witness statements, according to the affidavit.
The Nov. 28 fire started in a bathroom at Affiliated Computer Services off Tumwater Boulevard Southwest and destroyed the west side of the building. The employee whose behavior was described as suspicious also is described in the affidavit as “dissatisfied with company policies” and “normally quiet, abnormally angry.”
Tumwater police emphasized Monday that there are no suspects in the possible arson, and that the employee described in the search warrant affidavit was merely a “person of interest” in the case.
Officials at Affiliated Computer Services, or ACS, did not return a phone call seeking comment on Monday. ACS, a division of Xerox that operates call centers in South Sound, opened a new 39,000-square-foot building on Commerce Place near Hawks Prairie in Lacey in December.
After the Commerce Place site opened in December, it housed displaced ACS employees.
ACS provides customer care and information technology services. The Lacey ACS site is an in-bound call center for an undisclosed cellphone company, reportedly Verizon. Call center agents field customer-service calls.
Tumwater police detective Jen Kolb has said that the ACS fire started in a bathroom and was possibly triggered by an electric towel dispenser.
The search warrant affidavit recently filed in Thurston County Superior Court seeks permission for a forensic computer expert to examine a hard drive that stored surveillance footage from video cameras in the facility. Kolb said Monday that detectives are still awaiting the results of the forensic examination of the hard drive, which was salvaged after the fire.
An examination of the hard drive “might confirm who entered and exited the bathroom just prior to the fire being reported and the fire alarms sounding,” the affidavit states.
The Tumwater Fire Department has not determined whether the ACS fire was “criminal or accidental in nature,” according to the affidavit.
However, the affidavit states that the fire department has “determined that enough information, documentation, and evidence of the fire cause and origin had been evaluated to rule out any mechanical, electrical, equipment failure or acts of nature as the cause.”
The fire investigation has found that “human interaction” is the only possible ignition source of the fire.
Damage estimates for the former ACS call center building were between $2 million and $6 million, according to the affidavit.
The part of the structure that burned will be demolished, but the remaining structure will continue to be used for training, a regional vice president for ACS said this month.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org