Woman suspected of arson in fire at Bellingham apartment


BELLINGHAM - A 22-year-old woman was arrested on suspicion of arson after she started a fire in a man's Happy Valley apartment Saturday, June 21, according to the Bellingham Police Department.

Elysee Ledford went to the police station and told officers she set the fire at the apartment in the 1100 block of 23rd Street after a dispute with the 53-year-old renter, Lt. Bob Vander Yacht said.

Ledford told police she decided to burn the building down when she felt the man was taking advantage of her, claiming she and the man had an arrangement in which he would provide her drugs in exchange for sex, Vander Yacht said. Police couldn't corroborate her story.

A neighbor in the eight-unit complex called 911 after hearing the smoke detector go off in the man's apartment and discovering the fire at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. Crews from the Bellingham Fire Department were able to put out the fire before it spread to the structure, and the damage was mostly contained to one unit, assistant chief Bill Hewett said.

The man, who wasn't home when the fire started, couldn't stay in the apartment after the fire and was receiving assistance from the Mt. Baker chapter of the American Red Cross. People were able to get out of the other units safely, and those units had some minor smoke damage.

The fire started on a bed, and evidence at the scene supported the claim that the fire was intentionally set, Hewett said.

Ledford was booked into Whatcom County Jail Saturday on suspicion of first-degree arson.

Reach Zoe Fraley at 360-756-2803 or zoe.fraley@bellinghamherald.com.

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