Crime

Bellingham woman arrested on arson after park awning set ablaze

This awning near the salmon hatchery at Maritime Heritage Park was damaged in a fire lit beneath the structure Wednesday, May 18, 2016. A woman has been arrested on suspicion of arson.
This awning near the salmon hatchery at Maritime Heritage Park was damaged in a fire lit beneath the structure Wednesday, May 18, 2016. A woman has been arrested on suspicion of arson. kmittan@bhamherald.com

A woman suspected of lighting a fire that damaged an awning at Maritime Heritage Park early Wednesday, May 18, has been arrested on suspicion of second-degree arson.

Joyce Irene Camacho-Cruz, 25, is suspected of lighting a wooden grate and a large plastic fish tote on fire around 3 a.m. Wednesday, said Lt. Bob Vander Yacht, a spokesman for the Bellingham Police Department. The fire, lit beneath a wooden and metal awning near the park’s salmon hatchery, burned many of the awning’s rafters.

The awning covers a concrete pathway along the hatchery’s adult holding pond, near the parking lot at the end of C Street. No other structures were damaged in the fire, Vander Yacht said.

The Bellingham Fire Department received the original call at 3:05 a.m., Vander Yacht said. Two men who had been camping in the area flagged down police, pointing out Camacho-Cruz, who was sitting on grass not far from where the fire was started. The men told the officers that she had been near the awning when it began, Vander Yacht said.

She was arrested at the scene.

The awning was taped off to prevent people from walking underneath on Thursday afternoon, May 19. The wooden rafters and frame around the roof were charred black.

Camacho-Cruz has long suffered from mental-health issues, Vander Yacht said. In January, she was arrested on suspicion of arson and reckless burning after lighting bedding on fire inside her Cornwall Avenue apartment, Vander Yacht said.

Police estimated the damage to the awning around $4,000. Staff with the Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department or Bellingham Technical College, which operates the hatchery, will complete a final assessment of the damage.

Kyle Mittan: 360-756-2803, @KyleMittan

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