A Pasco motel renter who sparked a four-alarm fire while trying to get rid of tumbleweeds and brush faces trial Aug. 29.
James Michael Grant, 58, pleaded innocent to first-degree reckless burning for the May 28 incident at the Loyalty Inn.
The felony charge states that he knowingly caused the fire which recklessly damaged the 1800 W. Lewis St. building.
The Pasco man had been staying at the motel for about 16 months when he decided to try cleaning up outside.
The blaze started around 1:20 p.m. after Grant used a handheld lighter to burn weeds, court documents said.
Winds apparently fueled the fire and caused it to quickly spread through part of a two-story building at the Loyalty Inn, formerly called Vineyard Inn.
It took six hours for about 75 firefighters from 10 agencies in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties to battle the blaze and work to keep the flames from spreading.
Extensive fire and smoke damage was limited to a portion of the motel that was being renovated and the pool area.
Another part of the motel is used for short-term and extended-stay rooms. Dozens of people staying in that area were temporarily displaced while fire crews worked to extinguish the flames.
No occupied units were damaged.
Grant was interviewed by Pasco Officer Saul Mendoza and provided a handwritten statement admitting to his role in the fire, documents said.
During his first court appearance, he told a judge that he "made a stupid mistake."
Grant was released from custody May 29 after his brother posted his $5,000 bail. He reportedly has no prior felony convictions.