Friday, June 20, 2014

Man charged in counseling center fire

Suspect arrested on charges of arson and burglary

Express Staff Writer

    A Hailey man was arrested Wednesday on felony charges of first-degree arson and burglary in connection with a fire Tuesday evening at the Wood River Counseling Center at 220 S. Second Ave. in Hailey.
    Hailey police reported Thursday that Evan Pisa Puluti, 22, was taken into custody Wednesday at about 2 p.m. His arrest followed a determination that the fire was caused by arson, an anonymous tip to police and an interview with the suspect.
    Police reported in a press release that the Hailey Fire Department was dispatched to the scene of the fire at about 10:50 p.m. Tuesday. Fire engines from Wood River Fire & Rescue and the Bellevue Fire Department were also dispatched to assist.
    Hailey Fire Marshal Mike Baledge said the fire was extinguished within about five minutes of the arrival of firefighters. He said damage was confined to the interior of the building and that the structure was relatively unharmed.
    “There was pretty good damage in the reception area and pretty heavy smoke damage throughout the building,” Baledge said.
    After the fire was extinguished, the Hailey Fire Department initiated an investigation and determined that the fire was likely arson-caused because a burned gas can, still half full of gasoline, was found near a window in the front portion of the building.
    Hailey police were then notified and a joint investigation was initiated involving the police and fire departments and the state fire marshal.
    Police reported in the press release that an anonymous call was made early Wednesday morning to the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office suggesting that Puluti “might have something to do with the fire.”
    Puluti was interviewed later Wednesday at the Hailey police office and subsequently arrested.
    “With physical evidence HFD and HPD had collected through the investigation, it was determined there was enough probable cause to believe Puluti had unlawfully entered the Wood River Counseling Center on the late evening hours of June 17 and intentionally started a fire within the building,” the press release states.

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