Prosecutors: Angry wife set fire to house with kids inside

TACOMA, Wash. -- A mother who was arrested after she allegedly started a fire in her home while her children hid upstairs has been charged with first-degree arson, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The woman was upset over possible infidelity by her husband, so she piled photographs, a gift box, lingerie and other items on her bedroom floor around 10 p.m. Sunday and set it on fire, investigators said.

The mother's four daughters, ages seven to 13 years, were home during the fire. Prosecutors said the 13-year-old called her uncle in Arizona and told him that her parents got in to a fight and her mother was burning her father's stuff. The girl told him it was smoky in the house and directed her three younger sisters to open windows and get into a closet. The uncle then called 911.

Upon arriving at the home in the 3800 block of East J Street, police saw children dressed in pajamas peeking out of an open upstairs window, prosecutors said. Officers entered the smoke-filled house and found a pile of charred debris on the bedroom floor.

The youngest girl told police she walked into her mother's room and saw a box that was "red from fire." The mother had put out the fire before police arrived.

Medics treated one child at the scene for smoke inhalation. Officers then arrested the mother.

Firefighters said it was lucky the home didn't catch fire, as there were piles of clothes strewn about the floor near the fire and a bed was inches away from the flames. The children had escaped to a bedroom directly above where the fire was set.

"Arson is always dangerous, but especially so with children in the house," Pierce County prosecutor Mark Lindquist said in a statement released to the media. "The defendant has been charged with arson with aggravating circumstances for endangering the children."

The woman is being held on $100,000 bail. Meanwhile, the children have been placed with their father.