Archive for Tuesday, November 19, 1996

MYSTERIOUS FIRES BLAZE UP THROUGHOUT DOUGLAS COUNTY

November 19, 1996

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Fire struck yet another rural Douglas County structure this weekend, as a barn outside Eudora and farm equipment inside it were destroyed late Sunday.

In the past month and a half in rural areas of Douglas County, three barns, two houses and a small shed have been picked off by nighttime or early-morning blazes, most of which remain unexplained.

All the structures burned to the ground. No one was injured.

Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said Monday that the locations of the fires did not appear to indicate a pattern and that not one of the fires has been officially attributed to arson. The only cause tentatively determined was that of the most recent fire, which occurred Sunday night. Investigators believe faulty electrical wiring sparked the fire.

About 10:45 p.m. Sunday, Eudora township and Eudora city firefighters were called to a barn fire at 1432 E. 2300 Rd., east of Lawrence. The fire was reported by Tim Jackson, Eudora, who Anderson said was renting the barn and a house on the property. The lights in the house reportedly flickered just before the fire broke out in the barn, leading investigators to take the barn's electrical wiring box as evidence.

Total loss, including the structure, lawn mowers, hay and various pieces of farm equipment, was estimated at $10,000.

Neither the property's owner, Dennis Eisele, Victoria, Tex., nor Jackson could be located for comment.

The other four fires remain a mystery.

About 3 a.m. on Nov. 9, sheriff's officers and firefighters were called to 247 N. 1700 Rd., north of Lawrence, where flames were raging inside a white, wood barn. Two mornings before that, the 250-acre-property's stone and wood house inexplicably caught fire. The fire gutted the house and a shed next to it before the flames were put out.

Ava McCarthy, wife of the property's owner, Dennis McCarthy, said the house was rented at times but had been vacant since summer. Electricity and natural gas had been shut off. Broken locks on the house led the McCarthys to believe it was a youth hangout.

Combined loss was estimated at more than $100,000.

On Oct. 7, an abandoned house, scheduled for demolition, was reduced to ashes just east of Lawrence. The house, near the intersection of North 1500 Road and East 1750 Road, may have been hit by lightning, authorities said. Because of the house's condition before the fire, no dollar amount was estimated.

Wakarusa Township firefighters decided it would be safer to let the abandoned house burn as rain fell throughout the night and morning.

A barn that had just been sold was destroyed Sept. 22 by an early morning fire, southeast of Lawrence. The barn, valued at $40,000, contained 38 bales of hay and was located about three-tenths of a mile north of County Road 460 on County Road 1057, near Vinland.

Anderson said the previous owner and the buyer were not sure whether the electrical service was turned off at the time of the fire.

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