Car fire in The Jungle pits homeless residents against firefighters

Olympia firefighters allegedly assaulted, resident claim her property was destroyed


On April 24 the Olympia Fire Department responded to a car fire in The Jungle, the homeless encampment located near the 3200 block of Martin Way East. 

As KOMO News reported on May 23, Thurston County court documents state that there was a report of ammunition inside the car that had the potential to explode.  Acting on this information – plus prior negative encounters with those the court documents stated were “known to be hostile towards first responders,” – the fire crews opted to fight the car fire from a distance. 

This is the car that burned on April 24. In the background is the blue tent of the woman who said the water cannon knocked down her tent and destroyed some of her belongings. Photo taken on May 24, 2024
This is the car that burned on April 24. In the background is the blue tent of the woman who said the water cannon knocked down her tent and …

Court documents state that the crews used a water gun to do this; however, some of the water was poured onto the tents of some of The Jungle’s residents.  This action in turn lead to some residents confronting the firefighters, yelling at them to turn off the water. 

“During the incident, OFD had multiple subjects getting into their faces, throwing their items in the brush and throwing “softball size rocks” and branches at them and the fire engine,” the documents state. 

The documents also state that firefighters grabbed tools to defend themselves if needed and that at one point took cover behind the fire engine until law enforcement arrived on the scene. 

Once Olympia Police officers arrived, the documents goes on to say, the confrontation ended with the angry residents going back into The Jungle.  Unable to put the car fire out, the fire crews turned off the water and left. 

“The vehicle was still on fire but subjects from the camp were attempting to throw dirt on it to extinguish the fire,” documents state. 

At least one of the firefighters recorded the confrontation, and police were able to identify one of the individuals they say was involved.  Several weeks later, Timothy Matson, Jr. was arrested and charged with third-degree assault. 

On May 24, a JOLT reporter ventured into The Jungle to learn what some of the homeless had to say about the fire and the actions surrounding it.  None of the six individuals who talked would provide their names for fear of retaliation. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the car that caught fire on April 24. Photo taken on March 16, 2024
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the car that caught fire on April 24. Photo taken on March 16, 2024

Everyone interviewed said that there was no ammunition in the car.  “That piece of s**t has been there for years; it was full of garbage,” one individual bluntly stated. 

As to the water striking tents, several said this did happen.  One woman, however, stated that the water took down her tent, drenched her clothes, ruined her phone, and knocked her and her dog down. 

Her tent was in-between where the fire truck had parked on Martin Way and where the car fire was. 

“I don’t understand why the f**k they couldn’t have pulled up a bit further to fight the fire,” one man said.  “It’s almost like they wanted to hurt some of the people here.”  

He walked over and pointed to a trail that appears to provide more direct line down which the water could have been sprayed. 

Another man showed The JOLT’s reporter a video he had made of the incident.  Not only does it appear that the woman’s tent was in the line of water, but several of The Jungle’s residents can be heard yelling at other individuals to NOT throw rocks at the firefighters.  Also shown were several others shoveling dirt in an attempt to put out the fire. 

This woman, who granted permission for this photograph, contends that the water cannon on the fire truck knocked down her and her tent and destroyed some of her belongings.
This woman, who granted permission for this photograph, contends that the water cannon on the fire truck knocked down her and her tent and destroyed …

“They destroyed my home,” the woman said, “and then they left without putting out the fire.  Would they do this to anyone else?” 

When asked about the car fire in The Jungle, a spokesperson sent the following response: 

“The city of Olympia can confirm an incident on April 24, 2024, where rocks were thrown at Olympia Fire Department personnel as they responded to a car fire at a local encampment. 

“Responding to fires at encampments can be difficult and unpredictable, largely due to issues of access to the fire and the variety of obstacles crews might encounter during the response. Fire crews have learned to adapt their fire response in ways that keeps firefighters, encampment residents, and the general public safe. Working in crisis situations is what our firefighters do every day, and they do so with the highest level of professionalism. 

“The city of Olympia is proud of the close partnership and working relationship between our fire department, our Police Department and our Housing and Homelessness Team. We are grateful for our emergency responders and for the care and support they provide vulnerable members of our community on a daily basis.” 


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  • JW

    She could have avoided all of these side effects of Jungle life if she didn't illegally encamp herself on someone else's property.

    Wednesday, May 29 Report this

  • pheong

    Today: turning off of Black Lake Blvd. onto 5th to trudge down the hill. The Amazon delivery driver set his vehicle a half a block east. I was obliged to swing out by it some. A cyclist with a front bicycle wheel and various metal street signs loaded up had approached from the north on the east side of BLB coming off the sidewalk and turning onto 5th as well. I had just turned right as he turned left onto 5th. He expected that he had the right-of-way. he was in the East-West lane from downtown headed east back downtown. he had a whistle which he proceeded to constantly blow as if I had cut him off from the lane of traffic. BS. I had the lane from my right-hand turn onto 5th. He had entered the road from the sidewalk just after I crossed in front of him, coming from the wrong side of the street and attempting to fail to yield the right-of-way to my vehicle.

    You, with your stolen property and your whistle and your feeling that your circumstance grants you special allowances can go suck an egg, or maybe choke on that stupid whistle.

    Live as you can or see fit to live. Do not expect undue dispensations. Learn the rules of the road.

    I was a cyclist as my main means of transportation well into my 20's. I know full well what is and isn't allowed from cyclists.

    Wednesday, May 29 Report this

  • Kruz81

    Just let the whole POS burn.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • DeeperThoughts

    The city of Olympia is allowing this shantytown of illegal encampments to flourish despite multiple fires, explosions, overdoses, and drug trafficking. Now city employees are being assaulted. When will enough be enough for the city? The Jungle will be the next Superfund site when the transients are eventually done destroying all of the land and nature there. This disaster area needs shut down and cleaned out ASAP! Shame on the city for allowing this lawlessness and illegal camp.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • AugieH

    The water cannons perhaps provided much needed ablutions.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • hptrillium

    These houseless people don’t have anywhere else to go. Please treat them with respect. They are human beings. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “.Saying hateful things doesn’t help anyone. There but for the grace of God go you.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • Somney

    I am appreciative of this reporting. My take away from the story was that some of the folks living in the jungle reacted negatively, some not as negatively, there was a range of actions/responses. It is helpful to be reminded that it becomes easy to attribute specific qualities to a group of people, forgetting that they are individuals.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • FordPrefect

    To allow the Jungle to exist in the name of compassion does nothing but create a soft bottom rung on the ladder that the homeless will gravitate towards. It is degrading, disgusting and dangerous for everyone in our city, most of all the homeless.

    We have laws that the city council chooses not to enforce. If you wish to treat the homeless with respect, start by acknowledging that illegal drug use is the root cause for every single occupant of these camps. These people can’t be allowed to live in an open air drug den or they will never escape the addiction that destroyed their life in the first place.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • TheGreatAnon

    I wonder who or what company owns the property & why they allow people to squat on it.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • FordPrefect

    The property is owned by JJP Group LLC and the City of Olympia.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • tommull

    A JOLT article titled "The 'Jungle' to become Olympia city property" dated 6/9/2021 indicates to me that the city of Olympia owns "The Jungle" now. I believe that in the long run there are plans to extend Ensign Rd. to Pacific Ave. through there. T0M =)

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • TheGreatAnon

    Well, after doing a little research using a couple parcel look-up tools courtesy of the Thurston County Assessor's office it appears the land The Jungle sits on is made up of two parcels of about 10 acres. The parcels have an assessed value of $520,000 and are owned by the JJP GROUP LLC based here in Olympia. There might be two more parcels involved depending on the exact boundaries but JJP owns the vast majority of the land in question.

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • Terrilovesanimals

    My first thought is that she will go after "damages" and maybe even sue as so many people do even when they shouldn't be where they are. And my second thought was about "her belongings" and wondering how much of it was stolen vs. bought by her! This whole encampment has had so many bad things going on and should never have been allowed to exist. Same with all the others around Olympia!

    Thursday, May 30 Report this

  • HotTractor

    I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some of the fire department personnel thought they'd have some fun blasting a few of those second class sub humans. I mean how doesn't want to feel better about themselves by disrespecting somebody that doesn't have the power to fight back or disadvantaged in some way. Just looking at the comments to this story i think they don't realize just how close they are to being homeless, or that an onset of mental illness will land them in the same place. Reminds me of a buddy of mine, when driving by the people parked along the reflection lake, he get's upset because those people are living there rent free, not paying property taxes. I suggested he could too. Nothing was stopping him from grabbing an old leaky RV and living in it. I mean it's your choice, right now. With a good paying job, health insurance etc., but is it a choice if you lose your job, and of course the health insurance tied to a job?

    Sunday, June 2 Report this

  • FordPrefect

    HotTractor gives us a fine example of precisely the attitude that perpetuates these abhorrent conditions for the homeless. As though they’re just hapless victims that lack any sort of agency who must be coddled at every turn because life has been really unfair to them. It’s 2024, it’s not exactly been a secret for the last 40 years that drug abuse leads down a dark path. Give the homeless the dignity of holding them accountable for their actions and stop their self-destruction.

    The degree of human suffering that has been underwritten by so-called friends of the unhoused is the true tragedy here. The homeless need tough love, not more enabling empathy.

    I also find the implication that an Olympia firefighter would deliberately use a fire hose to “blast” people or their belongings for fun to be a completely disgusting and irresponsible notion. You talk about respect, how about extending that same respect to the men and women who serve this community and often are the first to respond to overdoses in these awful camps.

    Monday, June 3 Report this

  • WayTooOld

    Thank you, HotTractor.

    Monday, June 3 Report this