Woman Accused of Starting House Fire in Pe Ell Charged With Arson

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A woman has been charged with first-degree arson for allegedly starting the fire that destroyed a Pe Ell residence, two trailers and the surrounding brush Thursday afternoon. 

Fire crews were called to respond to reports of a fire in the 400 block of Washington Street at 1:40 p.m. on Oct. 14 and arrived to find the house and two trailers fully ablaze. 

One of the house’s residents learned about the fire from his boss and saw the fire from his workplace five blocks away. 

One of the home’s residents told fire personnel he suspected his girlfriend, Debra J. Bridges, 61, of Pe Ell, had intentionally set the house on fire, and fire crews contacted law enforcement. 

In addition to the primary structure and the trailers that were destroyed, some surrounding brush was burned. 

No injuries were reported. 

Crews cleared the scene at 3:40 p.m. 

When contacted by a deputy, Bridges allegedly said “I lit a paper towel on fire and threw it in the mattress. I didn’t know it was going to go up like that.” 

Based on a preliminary review of the scene, the arson investigator reported the fire began on the east side of the residence in a second-floor bedroom. 

The resident told investigators Bridges had been angry with him because she thought he was cheating on her, according to court documents. 

She had reportedly threatened to set the house on fire multiple times, most recently via text message on Oct. 10.

Investigators later learned that the property that was burned belonged to Bridges and was valued at $40,500. 

Bridges was booked into the Lewis County Jail at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 14 and has been charged with one count of first-degree arson — a felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison. 

While Bridges has no prior criminal history, Deputy Prosecutor Scott Jackson recommended $50,000 bail at Bridge’s preliminary appearance in Lewis County Superior Court on Oct. 15. 

“This is a violent offense, a dangerous offense that, in this case, did cause a lot of damage,” Jackson said.  

He stated he would have recommended a higher bail amount had Bridges had any prior criminal history. 

Judge J. Andrew Toynbee went with Jackson’s request for the bail amount, but denied a proposed condition of release that would have prevented Bridges from possessing any fire-making materials on the grounds it was too broad and would be too difficult to enforce. 

Her next court appearance is an arraignment hearing scheduled for Oct. 28. 

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