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Fire destroys portable restroom at Freeland Park

A pile of molten plastic is all that is left of a portable restroom at Freeland Park. It was destroyed by fire Sunday evening. - Spencer Webster / The Record
A pile of molten plastic is all that is left of a portable restroom at Freeland Park. It was destroyed by fire Sunday evening.
— image credit: Spencer Webster / The Record

FREELAND — A suspicious fire destroyed a portable restroom at Freeland Park sometime Sunday night.

Nearly four miles away at Double Bluff, Island County Sheriff’s Office deputies later discovered an attempted torching of the new bathroom facilities at the park.

The fire at the portable restroom at Freeland Park on Feb. 17 reduced it to a pile of molten plastic, Fire District 3 officials said.

“It was still flaming and all melted down to a big puddle on the ground and it set some of the bushes beside it on fire,” Fire District 3 Deputy Chief Paul Busch said.

The bathrooms at Double Bluff were not damaged other than the loss of toilet paper.

“They didn’t do much damage at Double Bluff,” said Island County General Services Director Betty Kemp. “They set the toilet paper on fire thinking they would cause some problems. There was just a little scorching but no real damage.”

The fires prompted Sheriff Mark Brown to send out an electronic alert to park officials and residents on the South End to remain vigilant.

“I would ask all residents to watch for persons loitering in and around public facilities and report suspicious or ‘unusual’ activity,” Brown said.

Island County Parks are day-use only and any activity during the hours of darkness is prohibited by county ordinance.

Despite similarities with a spate of fires that happened last year in May and June, including ones at Freeland Park and at Double Bluff Beach, Brown has not seen evidence linking the recent fires to the previous ones. The public toilet at Double Bluff was destroyed last year by a suspicious fire, and the restroom at Freeland Park was also damaged in a suspicious blaze.

“This disturbing trend of malicious mischief-related criminal activity in South Whidbey may once again be resurfacing,” he said.

The fires that sprung up around South Whidbey occurred during nearly a month-long period in the late spring of 2007. The first fire, reported to police in the late evening of May 2, 2007, was burning in a recycling bin at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.

The most costly fire happened at a storage facility in a house owned by The Tartan Thistle. The house and its contents were destroyed, causing $250,000 worth of damage that could not be recovered by insurance.

As a result, the Whidbey Island Highland Games are in jeopardy though Clinton singer Beverly Graham is putting together a benefit next month to raise money to help offset the loss.

The next fire ruined the men’s restroom at Freeland Park on May 10, costing the county more than $12,000.

On May 28, fire destroyed the bathrooms at Double Bluff, which cost Island County more than $60,000 to replace, Kemp said.

“We just got our last payment from the insurance company from the fires last summer,” she said. “Here, the ink is barely dry and someone tried to set fire to it again.”

The fires are still under investigation, Brown said.

Spencer Webster can be reached at 221-5300 or swebster@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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