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Wednesday, October 06, 2004 - Page updated at 11:11 A.M.
Fireman attempted to set fire to house, charges say
By Brandon Sprague
Prosecutors claim that Lt. Philip Lyons, 48, on Aug. 10 set fire to a cardboard box beneath a bay window outside his home on 72nd Place West while his wife and three children were inside.
Lyons put the fire out with a garden hose and called 911 after his wife saw a glow from the side yard, court documents said. The house was undamaged.
Lyons was arrested Aug. 27 after a 2½-week investigation involving police, the state fire marshal and investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Lyons, who had been on administrative leave after his arrest, returned to work Friday, said Tukwila Fire Chief Nick Olivas. His duties are administrative and do not involve fire responses.
"Those of us who have worked with Phil and known him so long maintain the position that he is innocent unless proven guilty," Olivas said.
According to charging papers filed yesterday in Snohomish County Superior Court, police used sniffer dogs to track the scent of the arsonist. But the trail kept leading to Lyons' front door, the court papers said.
Detectives later found a dinner napkin and commercial fire-starter, commonly used to set campfires, stuffed in the exposed framing below the bay window. A plastic gas-barbecue lighter was also found nearby. All the items belonged to the Lyons household, charging papers say.
Although Lyons said he had not bought any fire-starters, police reports show that Lyons' Safeway Club Card had been used to purchase a fire-starter in July, charging papers say.
Lyons allegedly told detectives he had no idea where the cardboard box came from or who would have wanted to start the fire, according to the charging papers. He later said he had disagreements with a family over the adoption of his child as well as with a potential buyer over the purchase of his antique truck, charging papers say.
Lyons said he had no comment when reached yesterday at his home.
Brandon Sprague: 425-783-0604, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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