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Arsonist strikes Navy homes again; $2,000 award offered for credible tips

Fences are erected around an apartment building damaged by fire. - Debra Vaughn / Whidbey News-Times
Fences are erected around an apartment building damaged by fire.
— image credit: Debra Vaughn / Whidbey News-Times

Someone is targeting Navy sailors and their families.

An arsonist set a military apartment building ablaze Sunday less than a mile from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, damaging four apartments and leaving five families without homes.

Officials are calling it arson and offering a $2,000 reward for tips that lead to arrest and conviction. They also say they do have leads.

The fire started shortly after midnight Sunday at the Whidbey Apartments on Larkspur Circle.

Shannon and Ryan Sharland lost everything they owned in the fire, including their two kittens. The couple were married a few months ago.

Sunday they were out of town visiting family when they got a call from military police about the fire. Someone lit the trash cans stored behind their house on fire. The flames destroyed their apartment completely and at least two others in the building appear to be a total loss, Sharland said. None of his neighbors were hurt, he said.

“Nothing was salvageable,” he said.

It’s not clear how long it will take for the insurance money to arrive and the family is asking for help. You can contribute online at www.gofundme.com/mygnga3p. The Navy is moving the couple into Navy housing elsewhere.

Base Commander Capt. Mike Nortier issued a statement Monday afternoon, alerting NAS Whidbey personnel that there will be an increased security presence in military housing “as a reaction to deter further action by these criminals.”

Monday officials converged on the scene, talking in knots and putting up fences around the burned out building, located at the edge of a neighborhood park. The apartment complex is located just off Langley Boulevard, near the entrance to the main gate on base.

This is at least the third fire set on Navy housing communities in Oak Harbor since September. The others happened at Crescent Harbor military housing east of town.

In those cases, someone set fire to recycle and trash bins outside people’s homes. At least two of the fires blossomed into bigger blazes. Navy officials were tightlipped about the fires, declining to say how many were started.

In the statement, Nortier asked for help preventing more fires. He asked residents to continue to secure trash and recycle bins inside garages.

He also encouraged anyone who notices anything suspicious to report the activity by contacting the NCIS tip line at 360-257-3359; at text-a-tip NCIS 274637 to make an anonymous tip via smart phone text; or visit the NCIS website at NCIS.navy.mil to file an anonymous complaint via computer.

The management company Forest City and NCIS have offered an reward of up to $2,000 for tips for credible information that leads to a felony arrest and conviction of the offender.

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