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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Building Suffers Only Minor Damage After Fire

Authorities say a fire at the Olde School Community Center in Fruitland Saturday was arson-caused, but firefighters extinguished the blaze before it had time to cause severe damage to the facility.

Fruitland Fire Chief Rick Watkins said the fire was deliberately set sometime Saturday afternoon at the southeast entrance to the building, where the fire burned through a wooden door and the floor between the first and second levels of the building. Watkins said the fire department received the call about 5:30 p.m.

Watkins said, because it was a Saturday, none of the tenants at the Olde School Community Center were at the site. One tenant, however, went to the building to retrieve some personal items and upon entering the facility noticed it was filled with smoke.

“When we arrived, there was light smoke that was pretty thick throughout the building,” Watkins said. “We had to breach a couple of doors and cut through one wall.”

Watkins said it was anticipated the fire had been burning for approximately three hours before fire crews arrived. Because there was no activity in the building, he said, air flow was limited, which kept the fire burning slowly. He did say the fire had enough time to burn through the floor and a portion of a wooden door.

“The burn area was probably only a couple of square feet,” he said.

Watkins said structural damage would probably be between $1,000 to $2,000 on the building, but repairs, including cleanup and smoke damage, could reach upward of $10,000.

Watkins said the fire department, which responded with five units and 14 personnel, was able to quickly extinguish the blaze. He said the Idaho State Fire Marshal was on-scene Saturday evening because arson was suspected.

Anyone with information on the fire can call the Fruitland Police Department at (208) 452-3001 or the State Fire Marshal’s tip line at (877) 75-ARSON. Information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person who started the blaze can earn a person a reward of up to $5,000 from the fire marshal’s office.

Also on Saturday, the Fruitland Fire Department was able to extinguish a blaze at the Emerald Village apartments, 1333 N.W. 18th Circle Drive in Fruitland, before the blaze caused extensive damage.

Watkins said the department was dispatched to the scene at approximately 11:08 a.m. where firefighters found a pan with cooking oil had ignited and destroyed a stove and burned the portion of a wall.

By the time crews arrive, Watkins said, the apartment’s tenant had extinguished the blaze using a fire extinguisher.

“We still had to get the stove out of there and make sure there wasn’t any fire in the walls,” Watkins said.

Watkins said five units responded to the fire, along with 13 members of the fire department. He estimated the total damage at around $2,000.

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