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M'ville Fire District honors woman for ID of Lakewood Elementary arsonist
MARYSVILLE — The Marysville Fire District took time during their May 20 board meeting to honor Dawn Taylor, who identified a suspect in the fire at Lakewood Elementary in July of last year.
Darrin Sanger, of the NW Insurance Council and the Arson Alarm Foundation, presented a check for $1,500 to Taylor, who provided an eyewitness account of the teenager charged with setting fire to a recycling bin at Lakewood Elementary July 23, 2008.
"If not for her, the investigation could have been prolonged, or even gone unsolved," Sanger said. "She played a critical role."
According to Snohomish County Deputy Fire Marshal Mike Makela, the suspect will plead guilty to reckless burning in the first degree, which is a class "C" felony. Sanger noted that more than half of all arsonists are under 18, while Marysville Fire District Chief Greg Corn added that 26 percent of the fires investigated by the Snohomish County Fire Marshal's Office are determined to be arson. To that end, the Fire Marshal's Office received a grant for an arson detection dog, that's already been assigned to the area.
Taylor was grateful that contractors were able to get the Lakewood Elementary building ready in time for the start of the 2008-2009 school year, without displacing any students, but she pointed out that the fire still had a significant impact on the students.
"My son, who's in kindergarten, had horrible nightmares about the fire, since he'd seen it," Taylor said. "For a while, he was crying, because he was convinced that his teacher had died in the fire, even though she wasn't even in the building, and it wasn't even her classroom. Things like this affect these kids so much."
Taylor was one of eight people who fought the fire at the Lakewood Elementary building July 23, but the fire still caused nearly $500,000 in damage to the building. At the time of the fire, two of the women in the group had been walking laps around the track, while the other three were watching their sons' football camp. As soon as they spotted smoke coming from the Lakewood Elementary building, all five ran toward it.
"That school is a part of my family," Taylor said. "It's a part of our history. I don't know what made me think to yell that we should break the windows. I'm just bossy by nature," she laughed.
During a ceremony honoring the the eight "heroes" in the Lakewood High School commons Aug. 20 of last year, Corn credited them with ingenious thinking, for breaking Lakewood Elementary building windows to retrieve the fire extinguishers within, which they then used to fight the fire.
"I don't think we would have thought of that," Corn said, before joking, "I hope the school district forgives them for breaking in those windows. This is one time when vandalism was acceptable."
"You think, 'What would I do?'" said Lakewood Elementary Principal Sheila Woods. "What they did was step up to the plate."
"The consistent comment I heard from firefighters was that they could not believe that this building was not completely consumed by the fire," said Fred Owyen, executive director of operations for the Lakewood School District. "We can credit the courageous actions of these community members with literally saving the building."