Janesville54.3°

Janesville police and fire investigating two suspicious fires

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
February 6, 2012
— Janesville police and fire officials are investigating two late-night residential fires that happened within an hour of each other.

Sgt. Charles Aagaard , the police department’s patrol supervisor, confirmed that both fires are suspicious.


Firefighters were dispatched at 11:15 p.m. Saturday to 2240 Pioneer Road, a single-family home with a detached garage. Homeowner Linda Bach was not home.


Just after midnight Sunday, they were called to 264 S. Franklin St., a one- or two-family dwelling. The home is vacant.


Footprints left by firefighters in the unshoveled snow on the sidewalk, driveway and lawn and a boarded broken window were the only signs Sunday afternoon of a fire at the South Franklin Street address.


Firefighters were on scene for only 90 minutes, said Scott Morovits, the fire department’s shift commander.


Fire and police officials, however, remained on scene of the Pioneer Road fire for 14 hours, a next-door neighbor said.


Yellow crime-scene tape still was roped today around the house, its driveway, where two charred vans with melted tires were parked, and the destroyed garage with its collapsed roof.


The smell of burned materials still filled the air 15 hours after the fire started.


“The house was not the structure that started on fire. It caught on fire because the garage was on fire,” Morovits said.


Because of the investigation, fire and police officials wouldn’t comment on whether they know the cause of the fires, Morovits said.


The value of the properties and damage estimates also were not available, Morovits said.


Police Detective Mark Johnson was at the Pioneer Road fire between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Sunday but could not be reached for comment later.


Fire inspector Sue North was reached just moments after leaving the Pioneer Road fire scene,


“My investigation was to strictly to support the police department’s investigation they already had underway,” North said. “So I really can’t comment on the fire at all.”


Nobody was hurt in the fires, Morovits said.


Kerry Kuykendall, 2234 Pioneer Road, was sitting on his living room couch just after 11 p.m. Saturday when he heard a pop-like noise.


“It sounded like an explosion with a bang; then something blew up,’’ he said.


Kuykendall ran to the patio and saw flames coming from the garage next door. He also noticed a light on in the house at 2240 Pioneer Road.


Kuykendall grabbed his phone and dialed 911 as he ran next door and began pounding on Linda Bach’s door.


“I thought she was home, but she wasn’t,’’ said Kuykendall, who later learned that Bach was out with a friend.


The fire was so hot that it burned the south side of Kuykendall’s garage and melted siding on the south side of his house, he said.


“Man, did it go!” Kuykendall said Sunday afternoon.


“It was so hot it even blew out the windows on the back of (Bach’s home’s) porch,” he said, pointing across the driveway.


Davis Towing was called to pull the vans from inside the garage.


Kuykendall said fire officials were concerned that chemicals in the garage might blow.


Bach’s late husband had a workshop with a gas heater, a compressor and generator in the garage, Kuykendall said.


“He worked on lawnmowers and snow blowers,’’ he said.


An officer driving on Highway 51 while responding to the fire told Kuykendall he could see flames from 1.5 miles away.


Kuykendall said Bach is staying with her daughter, who lives in Beloit.


“She’s a quiet person,” he said. “Nothing like this should ever happen.’’



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