Arson at Point D pagoda

The historic pagoda at Point Defiance, a well-known landmark to park goers, was significantly damaged in a fire on Friday, April 15. It was the second of what turned out to be several suspicious fires at Point Defiance this month.

Each of the fires, which all occurred after dark, have been judged arson. There were no witnesses to the fires and no suspects have yet been apprehended. Extra security has since been added to Point Defiance.

Despite the short span of time in which each instance of arson was committed, Tacoma police are inconclusive as to whether or not the three fires were started by the same person or persons.

The first fire was started on April 11, when three garbage cans were set ablaze on Owen Beach. Quickly extinguished, the flames did not cause any damage. The second fire, set to the inside of the 97-year-old pagoda, completely damaged the floor, the basement and parts of the roof.

On April 18, an arsonist put burning toilet paper into a plastic trash can in a men’s restroom in the area of the park between the zoo and the pagoda. A Point Defiance security guard saw the fire around 9:30 p.m. The flames were extinguished quickly and no damage was caused.

In a statement, police spokesperson Mark Fulghum said he was not sure if the fires were related. He noted the difference in the types of damage caused.

“Garbage cans may be more of a prank style, but the Pagoda itself, that’s way above and beyond a prank,” Fulghum said.

Metro Parks Tacoma Communications Manager Nancy Johnson said that the proposed cost of the damage—around $500,000—might be low because it’s based on reconstruction for a typical building, rather than a historical one like the pagoda.

“It will probably take about a month’s time to make a full assessment of what it will take to restore the building. It is our assumption that the coverage that we have on the building will restore it to what the public’s expectations will be,” Johnson said in an interview with the Seattle Times. Restoration crews have determined that some aspects of the original historical structure will be salvageable, though it is still unclear how much of the pagoda is damaged beyond repair.

“We are highly committed to restoring the Pagoda in a manner that maximizes its value and use to the community,” Executive Director of Metro Parks Tacoma Jack Wilson said in a press release. “As we do so, our focus and priority will be to ensure that its historical integrity remains intact.”

The projected completed time for restorations to the pagoda is between six and eight weeks.