Law enforcement: Sleeping smoker cause of house fire

PORT ANGELES — A man who fell asleep while smoking was determined to be the cause of a Saturday afternoon fire at an abandoned house in the 1300 block of West Lauridsen Boulevard, according to Clallam County Chief Criminal Deputy Amy Bundy.

Chad A. Kassen, 33, of Port Angeles was booked into the Clallam County jail shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday on investigation of first-degree criminal trespassing after firefighters and law enforcement officers responded to the abandoned house that had three people living in it. One occupant couldn’t be located and the other wasn’t arrested.

Kassen was being held Monday in lieu of $10,000 bail. No court date had been set as of Monday afternoon.

Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue and the Port Angeles Fire Department were dispatched at 1:40 p.m. Saturday to the structure fire in the 1300 block of West Lauridsen Boulevard, which was found to be fully involved upon arrival.

Clallam County Sheriff’s Sgt. Amy Bundy wrote in a Monday afternoon email the sheriff’s office took over the incident after the house was determined to be in the county.

“The house had a history of problems with squatters,” Bundy wrote. “A citizen was contacted outside the burning residence and stated he had been inside the residence smoking a cigarette when he fell asleep and woke up with the house on fire.”

The man later was identified as Kassen.

“The fire was still being put out at the time Kassen was contacted outside, but Kassen’s statement was consistent with the location of where the fire started,” Bundy said.

Kassen was treated at Olympic Medical Center for smoke inhalation before he was booked into jail.

Port Angeles police were able to ascertain that two of the three known occupants were out of the structure and at the time could not determine the status of the third person said to be living there. It was later confirmed that the third occupant had a van and it was not on the property, said Clallam 2 Deputy Fire Chief Justin Grider on Saturday.

Port Angeles police reported that the building was an abandoned structure; neighbors said up to three squatters were on site, according to the release from Clallam 2 Fire-Rescue.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control within 30 minutes of arrival. Flames were contained to the building with no damage to the perimeter storage buildings.

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at brian.gawley@peninsula dailynews.com.

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