A 20-year-old woman is believed to have started a destructive fire at a Pasco apartment complex last weekend because her phone had been broken during a fight with a friend.
Maira Fuentes Molina initially blamed the fire on the friend, saying the woman was trying to cover up evidence, according to court documents.
She later admitted lighting some papers and a notebook in one of the bedrooms to get back at the other woman, but then the fire got out of control, documents said.
Fuentes Molina allegedly threw a bowl of water on the flames and left the room thinking it was extinguished. A few minutes later she saw smoke and ran for help.
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The upstairs apartment where Fuentes Molina had been staying sustained heavy smoke and fire damage. Two other apartments in the six-unit building had smoke and water damage.
Nine people, including three children, were displaced by the fire.
Fuentes Molina was charged Wednesday with first-degree arson. She will appear Jan. 16 in Franklin County Superior Court.
Her hometown is not known.
Pasco firefighters and police arrived at Tri-Cities Vista Low Cost Housing on South Elm Avenue about 2:20 a.m. Saturday to find smoke billowing out of windows.
They helped evacuate the complex, including rescuing a cat that appeared to be in shock at the top of a staircase. Another cat died in the fire.
Officer Matt Griffin said once they knew all of the residents were out of harms way, he approached the property manager, Adelita Alvarado, to figure out how the fire started. Alvarado pointed out Fuentes Molina, saying she was crying and appeared angry.
Alvarado shared that shortly before the fire, residents had called her to report yelling, fighting and pounding going on in one apartment, court documents said.
Griffin then spoke with a woman who rents that specific apartment and learned she had argued with her house guest over headphones left in her car. The renter did not want to give the keys to her friend because she was afraid that the guest, who was “extremely intoxicated,” would drive off with her car, documents said.
The fight turned physical, with Fuentes Molina allegedly hitting, punching and kicking the tenant. Her phone broke at some point during the attack.
The tenant barricaded herself in her bathroom, called another friend to pick her up, then ran out of the apartment barefoot with Fuentes Molina close behind.
The tenant thought Fuentes Molina would calm down while being left alone for several minutes, court documents said. But she returned to her apartment to see the smoke, quickly followed by responding police and firefighters.
Fuentes Molina told detectives she beat up her friend, but that it was in response to being slapped in the face first. She said she “went crazy” after her phone broke and punched the tenant in the face numerous times, documents said.
Fuentes Molina had two lighters in her coat pocket when arrested. She allegedly told investigators that she couldn’t remember which one she used to start the fire.
She was booked into the Franklin County jail shortly after 6 a.m. Saturday. Bail is set at $50,000.