A Pasco man said he "made a stupid mistake" when he tried to burn weeds outside a Pasco motel, sparking a four-alarm fire Monday.
James Michael Grant, 58, has been staying at the Loyalty Inn, 1800 W. Lewis St., for about 16 months and said he was just trying to help clean up outside.
"I made a stupid mistake and it got out of hand," Grant said Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court.
Pasco police arrested Grant at the fire scene and was ordered held in the Franklin County jail on investigation of first-degree reckless burning, a felony.
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Judge Craig Matheson set Grant's bail at $5,000. His brother posted his bail Tuesday to get Grant released about an hour after his court appearance.
Before setting the bail, Matheson noted that there is no allegation of arson and Grant has no prior felony convictions.
Deputy Prosecutor Brian Hultgrenn said the damage caused by the fire warranted $5,000 bail.
Grant said he would hire his own attorney. If he's charged, he'll be back in court June 5.
The blaze started around 1:20 p.m. Monday after Grant used a lighter to burn some tumbleweeds and brush, documents said.
Winds apparently fueled the blaze and caused it to quickly spread through part of a two-story building at the Loyalty Inn, formerly called Vineyard Inn.
About 75 firefighters from 10 agencies in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties spent six hours battling the blaze and working to keep the flames from spreading.
Fire damage was limited to a portion of the motel that was being renovated and the pool area. No cost estimate for the damage was available Tuesday.
Dozens of people staying in another part of the motel, which provides short-term and extended-stay rooms, temporarily were displaced while fire crews worked to extinguish the fire.
None of the occupied units was damaged, officials said.
The Benton-Franklin Chapter of the American Red Cross mobilized nine volunteers on the Memorial Day holiday.
Volunteers lined up a site in Kennewick to shelter the displaced residents, and the Columbia Basin Baptist Association was put on stand-by to prepare meals with its mobile feeding kitchen, if needed, said Red Cross Executive Director Jeanne Jelke.
Snacks and water also were made available at the scene for the residents.
Jelke said smoke detectors in nearby units were disconnected so they wouldn't be activated by lingering smoke, and some units had to stay empty because of possible flare-ups.
Some residents were able to get rooms in other parts of the motel, while most found places to stay with family and friends, Jelke said.
"Although it was a big inconvenience to the residents, we are relieved because this could have been much worse," she said.
Red Cross officials, however, will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional help, if necessary, she said.
Since July, the Red Cross has helped victims of several fires, including the Woodland Park Apartments fire on the Fourth of July that left 62 people needing a new place to stay, Jelke said.
Jelke said the chapter has exceeded it's annual $35,000 disaster relief budget by 55 percent, with one month to go in the budget year.
Donations to the local disaster relief fund can be mailed or delivered to 7202 W. Deschutes Ave., Kennewick, 99336.
They also can be made by calling 783-6195 or online at inwredcross.org.