PULLMAN, Wash. -- A man accused of starting a fire at several buildings at an apartment complex in July pleaded guilty to a felony arson charge Monday.
Investigators said Bryan Lee Kitchen, 31, set the fire at the Grove apartment project July 14, 2013. Flames destroyed four buildings set to house Washington State University students for the fall semester.
Kitchen's arson charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The plea deal reached was for 52 months (four years) to be served. The court, however, would have discretion over the length of Kitchen's sentence.
As part of the plea deal, Kitchen has to work with Pullman police detectives and truthfully fess up if he was involved in any of the City’s other unsolved arson cases.
Officials said Kitchen had been a person of interest since the morning of the fire at the Grove apartment project July 14th. According to authorities, Kitchen’s unoccupied car was spotted near the fire scene by police.
Kitchen, who worked for a plumbing sub-contractor at the construction site, reportedly told detectives ‘voices’ told him to do bad things. Detectives said Kitchen also told them when he drank alcohol he could not control his urge to do bad things.
WATCH: Estimated $13M loss in Pullman apartment fire
The fire at the Grove was so hot, officials said, it cracked windows at a nearby research park 200 yards away. The heat also melted the siding off of several nearby apartment complexes.
Washington State University student Hiro Kawahara said he could see the flames from more than a mile away. He had planned to move into the apartments in August.
“It was extremely hot. I was basically down the hill on the opposite side and I was walking up and I started feeling the heat immediately,” said Kawahara.
Fire investigators said the fire was the largest and most complicated fire Pullman has experienced in the last 30 years.
Hundreds of students were still waiting in January for the completion of the apartment buildings.
“Despite the fact that they might be a bit behind schedule, I think they are doing a pretty good job building the grove,” said Kawahara.
A judge has to decide whether or not to accept the plea deal. If it is accepted, it will be the judges discretion on the length of the prison sentence.