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Woman who died in house fire identified; death classified as suicide

The King County Medical Examiner has identified the woman who died in the fire March 23 at 5034 Elliot Court SE as Mary Stangeland, 50.

Valley Regional Fire Authority investigators have determined that the cause of the fatal house fire was arson. Early indications are that Stangeland set the fire herself.

"The Medical Examiner classified her death as a suicide," Auburn Police Commander Mike Hirman said last week. "We are conducting our own investigation just to make sure no one else was involved. But at this point, all indications are suicide."

Auburn Police detectives are investigating the incident with the King County Medical Examiner to determine the cause and manner of death.

According to investigators, the fire began in the second-floor master bedroom of the home, where firefighters found Stangeland's body.

Multiple neighbors called 911 at 3:46 p.m. after hearing an explosion and breaking glass and seeing heavy smoke and flames boiling out of the upper floor windows. Three fire engines, one ladder truck and one medical aid unit from the VRFA responded to the fire and applied water to the second-floor before entering the building.

The woman was quickly found and determined to be dead. Firefighters then focused their efforts on containing the fire to the second floor and keeping it from spreading to nearby homes.

The fire destroyed the home's second floor. The first floor and basement suffered heavy water damage. Damage to the structure and contents is estimated at $170,000.

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