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Suspect arrested in connection with toxic fire near Shelton

A major industrial fire has shut down part of State Route 3 in Shelton, Wednesday night, August 22, 2018. (Photo: KOMO News)

SHELTON, Wash. - A suspect was arrested on suspicion of 1st degree arson in connection with a major industrial fire in a tire shop that shut down part of State Route 3 near Shelton Wednesday night.

Mason County Sheriff's deputies said a man who lived in an RV parked next to the tire shop was taken into custody. Investigators say the fire started in the RV and 25 to 35 mph winds spread the flames to the tire shop near S. Delaware Street and SR 3. A thick plume of dark smoke could be seen hovering over the area.

"They were saying there was 35 mph winds and stuff going through here, so it was kinda stirring the smoke up but it was mainly pushing one way – heading that way. And I guess we were kinda lucky that it was ‘cause it could have just settled in on us," Mark Riser told KOMO News on Thursday afternoon. He lives near the property where the fire happened.

A medic unit noticed smoke coming from the RV as they passed by the area just before 7:30 P.M. Wednesday, investigators said. They turned around and tried to attack the fire with an extinguisher, but the fire was just too big, investigators added.

The fire came to within feet of a nearby business.

"I’m absolutely amazed," said Justin Cowling, an employee at Tupper's Flood Covering. "I’m amazed at how well they did because the truck, our truck is right here. And I was sure that when I was gonna come down here I was going to see that gone."

Firefighters said their are no hydrants nearby so they had to truck water in from off-site.

WATCH: Firefighters work to prevent the fire in Shelton from spreading:

People who live within a half mile of the fire were told to shelter in place, close all their windows and doors and turn off their air conditioners. The shelter-in-place order was listed early Thursday morning, investigators said.

"We have rubber smoke heading due north into the city of Shelton," said Mason County Fire District 4 Chief Bob Burbridge. "Basically the south half of the city."

About 55 firefighters from fire districts in Mason and Thurston Counties were at the scene. The fire was brought under control and crews were mopping up Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters and the Department of Ecology are also monitoring the environmental impact of the fire.

"The runoff from the fire is heading south into Mill Creek," said Burbridge. "Both fire and ecology have done a good job of damming and protecting the water from entering the creek."

The environmental impact from the fire appears to be minimal, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Ecology told KOMO News. A team walked up and down nearby Mill Creek and will have some water samples tested for toxins, she said. Results will likely be back Friday, she added.

The State Department of Natural Resources also sent several crews to help manage the fire and keep it from spreading to nearby wooded areas.

It appears the man arrested in connection with the fire suffered smoke inhalation while trying to go into the tire shop after the fire started, investigators told KOMO News. He was booked into the Mason County Jail on Thursday and will likely appear in court on Friday, investigators added.

Crews said the RV was destroyed and the tire shop is heavily damaged.


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