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Sidney blaze ruled arson

The fire that burned much of the rental home where Linda Malcom was found dead of stab wounds last week was intentionally set, according to Kitsap County Fire Marshal David Lynam.

"It was not accidentally set," Lynam said, explaining that investigators from his office spent three days sifting through evidence in the structure on the 1100 block of Sidney Avenue that was discovered engulfed in flames by neighbors shortly before 4 a.m. on April 30.

Lynam said, "because of the other circumstances involved," his crew was very "diligent" in collecting evidence and sent off samples of the fire debris to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.

"Because of the high-profile nature of this incident, we are hoping to get results back from the lab as quickly as we can," he said, explaining that the probe could be completed within the month, while normally the process can take up to six months.

Lynam said the investigation was also helped by the fact that investigators from the state crime lab were on-scene, as was a specially trained dog from the Seattle Fire Department’s arson unit.

According to the SFD’s Web site, the black lab called “Henny” was trained through the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive’s (ATF) Accelerant Detection Canine Program, and is the department’s first accelerant canine, or “arson dog.”

Lynam said investigators here learned about the dog and were able to utilize it because one of the Port Orchard Police Department’s reserve officers is also a firefighter with the SFD and assigned to the arson unit.

“That was great,” he said, explaining that while humans have less than an inch of nose power to work with, dogs have six inches. “It gives us another tool, and allowed us to confirm what we already believed had happened.”

Specifically, Lynam said the dog is trained to search for signs of hydrocarbons, which are found in many accelerants such as gasoline and kerosene. “Also, when wood burns, they are released.”

Lynam said his office determined that the fire was started inside the house and was a “quick spreading” rather than smoldering fire. As for other details, such as where it started and how, he said his office is “holding onto that information.”

Malcom, 47, was found dead inside the home by South Kitsap Fire and Rescue firefighters who responded April 30 to douse the fire. Soon afterward, the POPD described the fire as "suspicious," and a day later the Kitsap County Coroner’s Office revealed that Malcom was stabbed to death before the fire.

Anyone with information about the fire or who had contact with Malcom in the two weeks prior to her death is asked to call the POPD at 876-1700.

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