Sometime during the early morning on Saturday, Kelso resident Kermit Kay says his porch and a car in his driveway were lit on fire. The windows on two other cars were smashed out as well. The incident has prompted an arson investigation.
Kay said he was driving a friend home around 2 a.m. when he got a frantic call from one of his roommates claiming the cars and house had been “firebombed.”
“I thought, my roommate is exaggerating. … This can’t be true,” Kay said.
But he said when he got back to his house, just north of the Flying K, there were police cars and fire trucks outside his house.
A Kelso police report said that when officers responded to the call, they saw a vehicle with the rear fender and trunk in flames.
“The plastic/fiberglass materials were melting off of the car and into the ground,” the report said.
The report said the area under the porch was also on fire. Officers used a fire extinguisher to douse the flames.
“There was some singeing on the siding, and the paint got bubbled, but considering everything, we got off pretty good,” Kay said. “It’s just the cars that are toast and nobody was hurt.”
Kay said his roommate had been standing in the kitchen when he heard footsteps on the front porch.
“We have other roommates, so he thought it was one of us coming home,” Kay said. “But then he saw the flames out the window.”
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According to the police report, another roommate who was in the bathroom at the time saw three men in dark clothing throw something before getting into a “box-shaped car,” possibly a Kia Soul, and speeding off.
Kay said it appears to him that someone tried to use a gas can to make a Molotov cocktail. He said all the windows of three of four cars in the driveway were smashed out, and while only one was lit on fire, there was gas on one of the other cars.
He said he thinks the perpetrators simply threw the gas can after lighting the first car on fire, perhaps hoping the house would catch on fire, but the flames didn’t spread.
Officers found a bottle with a gasoline accelerant at the scene, as well as a lighter. Half of a splintered wood two-by-two was also found in the driveway, and the other half was found in one of the damaged cars.
Kay said he moved to Kelso last year from Portland because he had thought it would be safer in a smaller town. However, he said after recent shootings in the Longview-Kelso area and this incident, he’s no longer sure.
“I bought the house to settle down and start a family, but I’m not sure if it’s safe,” Kay said. “I’m considering selling the house.”
He also said one of his roommates is considering moving out.
Cowlitz 2 Fire & Rescue has started an arson investigation, and the Kelso Police Department is also investigating.
Kay is asking anyone in the community who might have information about the incident to come forward. He has also started a GoFundMe (link online) to help pay for the cost of the damaged cars and house.
“Money has been hard and life recently has been pretty rough, and this act of violence ... has complicated things beyond our control,” Kay wrote.