Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Cause of two Hailey fires deemed 'suspicious'

Express Staff Writer

A nearly weeklong investigation into the exact cause of two separate, but possibly related, fires in Hailey has not yet shed conclusive light.

So, at least for now, the lack of any known causes for the fires—both in the same building and within 12 hours of each other—has led fire investigators to call the blazes "suspicious."

Nonetheless, a July 3 news release from the Hailey Fire Department concedes that the second fire "may" have stemmed directly from the first.

"An ember may have gone undetected during the 'overhaul' inspection for hot spots conducted earlier, and there was an accidental rekindling of the fire," according to the statement.

"When a responding firefighter arrived on the scene, he was able to confirm that there was a small fire in the area of a ceiling lighting fixture of the bedroom in which the fire had previously occurred."

The Hailey Fire Department was originally dispatched to the first of the two blazes in building A at Valley View Apartments at 9:04 p.m. on Tuesday, June 27. The apartments are located on Second Avenue North in Hailey, just north of Myrtle Street.

The first firefighters to arrive on the scene found moderate amounts of smoke rolling out of open windows and the door of one of the apartment units. According to the report from the Fire Department, firefighters who entered the structure Tuesday found the fire in a bedroom and quickly brought it under control.

Several apartment complex residents attempted to extinguish the fire and suffered from smoke inhalation, the report said.

Before departing from the scene Tuesday, firefighters removed all smoldering items from the apartment and conducted a visual inspection, with the assistance of thermal-imaging cameras to determine whether the fire had spread into the building's structural areas.

Following reports of a wisp of smoke coming from the same building at about 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 28, Hailey firefighters again arrived at the scene.

Responding firefighters were able to detect the source of the smoke coming from a small fire in a ceiling light fixture in the bedroom where the first fire originally occurred.

"Within a matter of minutes, the fire 'flashed over' in the attic area and rapidly spread throughout the attic as additional fire units were arriving," the report states.

Within minutes of being discovered, the fire made a rapid spread into the building's attic area. By 7 a.m. it was declared under control.

"While the origin of the fire has been determined to have occurred in a bedroom of the apartment, the exact cause of the fire's ignition is undetermined at this time but is deemed 'suspicious' due to the apparent lack of any accidental cause such as faulty wiring, food left on the stove, etc.," the news release states.

"This lack of any accidental causes combined with witness statements of suspicious activities prior to the fire has provided cause for further investigation."

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