Sept. 28--Eau Claire police have arrested two people in connection with a pair of fires on the city's west side Friday, one of which destroyed the Reach Inc. building at 2125 Third St.
The suspects -- David G. London, 29, and Brandy K. Harrington, 27 -- were arrested for methamphetamine possession and were questioned about the fires, although neither was charged with fire-related crimes. London also was cited for resisting arrest.
Police consider the fires suspicious and believe arson could have been the cause, given that
they were just several blocks apart and were started at similar times.
"It's suspicious based on the proximity of two fires which occurred within a few hours of each other," said police spokesman Kyle Roder. "We are investigating it as a criminal act."
One fire started at 3:05 a.m. in a shed located next to the Reach Inc. building. The other started at 6:42 a.m. in an unattached garage belonging to the house at 1827 Whipple St.
Eau Claire firefighters said a separate fire investigator has been assigned to each incident.
The fire at Reach Inc. started in the shed 10 to 15 feet from the main building, fire Battalion Chief Bryon Bensen said. Reach Inc. CEO Stacy Wigfield said there was no electrical wiring in the shed.
The shed was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, and the fire spread to the eave line of the main building and started that building's attic and roof on fire, Bensen said.
As Eau Claire firefighters battled the fire at Reach Inc. they had to evacuate the building for fear the roof would collapse -- which it did.
"While crews were making an interior attack the attic 'flashed over' and fire started venting out the gable end of the building. At that time all crews were ordered to evacuate the building," Bensen said in a news release.
Two aerial ladders were set up, and multiple hand lines were used to extinguish the fire from the exterior, Bensen said.
The shed and main Reach Inc. building are a total loss, but the value of the buildings and their contents have not yet been determined, Bensen said.
While on the scene of the Reach Inc. fire, a firefighter noticed smoke coming from three blocks away, Bensen said.
"This was before it was dispatched, before it was even called in," Bensen said.
Bensen sent two units from the Reach Inc. fire to check out the smoke from three blocks away. "We sent whatever units we had left," he said.
That fire did not spread to any other buildings, but a nearby home sustained some melted siding from the heat of the garage fire, Bensen said.
The value of that fire has also not been determined, he said.
Reach Inc. provides work opportunities for people with special needs. The Third Street building primarily houses its adult day program, which includes vocational services.
Wigfield said his staff is working to relocate as many services as possible to the organization's other sites and is trying to find new places to operate in the short-term.
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Copyright 2013 - The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.