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December 04, 2008 4:38 am

Burglary/arson named cause in Nickles fire

Written by Tribune Staff

Arson, apparently prompted by burglary, is the cause of the fire that destroyed a large garage owned by Steve and Meg Nickles early on the morning of Nov. 12, investigators have determined.

An investigator ruled out gas, electrical or vehicle malfunctions or a possible lightning strike due to the wind storm that night, Police Investigator Dave Brown said Wednesday.

“They're saying it was arson,” Brown said. “What they're really telling me is, it was a man-made fire.”

Brown said the police have a suspect and anticipate making an arrest this week.

The burglary and arson occurred at about the same time, and some property that was stolen from the shop before the fire has been recovered, he said.

The Powell Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched at 4:44 a.m. By the time firefighters arrived a few minutes later, the shop was fully engulfed in flames and a complete loss.

Brown said police are working with an investigator from Iriss Fire Investigations, Inc., with offices in Colorado, who sifted through the ruins of the shop in the alley behind Nickles home at 349 N. Douglas St.

At this point in the investigation, Brown would not say what sort of accelerant was used to ignite the fire.

Usually Powell police work with state investigators when the nature of fires is suspect, but Brown said they have worked with fire insurance investigators in the past who usually are former firefighters.

Brown said Iriss investigators know what they are doing.

“They're experts in their field,” Brown said.

The Nickleses assisted in the investigation and never were suspected of setting the blaze, he said.

After they spent time, effort and money building a large shop and garage, it would be disheartening to see that hard work go up in flames. But the good news is, nobody was injured.

“Property can be replaced,” Brown said. “People can't.”