By Ann McCreary
Fire investigators were expected to wrap up their work early this week on the premises of the Twisp River Pub, which was extensively damaged by fire that has been determined to be arson.
Twisp Police Chief Paul Budrow said Tuesday (March 15) that there appears to be evidence of “entry through a door” of the pub that could indicate a possible burglary.
Budrow is heading up the criminal investigation into the fire, which erupted about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 29.
Brian Brett, Douglas County fire marshal, is leading the fire investigation, and a separate investigation is being conducted by a private investigator from Mutual of Enumclaw, which insures the building.
Investigators on Tuesday were going through the building with owner Aaron Studen to determine where computers and other kinds of electronic equipment were kept, Budrow said.
“We’re almost wrapping it up,” Budrow said. “The building will be released back to Aaron so he can begin cleaning up, taking inventory … doing whatever he needs to do.”
Budrow said he would begin conducting interviews this week in connection with the fire. He said some of the interviews would be conducted by a law enforcement officer outside his department, to avoid any appearance of influence or conflict of interest due to Studen’s position as a Town Council member.
A sign offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest and/or conviction in connection with the arson fire was posted by Budrow, on the front of the pub. The reward is offered by the Arson Alarm Foundation and more information is available by calling the Twisp Police Department at 997-6112.
The fire apparently started in the pub’s office at the back of the building and then spread toward the kitchen, causing heavy damage in that part of the structure.
The restaurant and bar area toward the front of the building was not burned, but had significant smoke damage.
Investigators discovered a pile of burned towels that appeared to have been soaked in some kind of accelerant on the bar, Budrow said last week.
Although the towels were burned, they did not ignite their surroundings, perhaps because the intense fire in the adjacent kitchen area pulled oxygen from the restaurant and prevented the fire from taking hold there, Budrow said.
Neighbors and firefighters reported several explosions soon after the fire began, which were probably caused by a propane tank in the building, tires on nearby cars and fuses in the electrical system, Budrow said.
Evidence collected in the investigations will be sent to the State Patrol Crime Laboratory, Budrow said. Results of the analysis from the crime lab could take months or weeks to get back, he said.
The fire was reported to county dispatch at 2:34 a.m. and the Twisp station of Okanogan County Fire District 6 was toned at 2:36 p.m., said Interim Chief Cody Acord. Division Chief Brian McAuliffe arrived on the scene at 2:43 a.m and the first engine arrived at 2:47 a.m., Acord said. About 25 firefighters from District 6 and 15 from-Douglas Fire District 15 fought the fire, which was brought under control by 6 a.m..