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NEW INFORMATION Chippewa Falls fire now called 'Suspicious', $5,000 award offered

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) - A fire that destroyed businesses and apartments and hurt one person is now being called suspicious.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department said after two days of digging through the rubble, electrical problems have been ruled out as the cause and is asking for the public's help.

"We believe that the origin was inside apartment four on the second floor," Detective Sgt. Brian Micolichek said. "We know it did not start in the kitchen, so that leaves the living room and bedrooms as possibilities."

"There's still some possibilities of it being accidental, and if it was accidental, then it's not an arson."

For the past six weeks, David Raihle said he has been repairing his building on Spring Street in Chippewa Falls. His four tenants had to leave their homes after the Aug. 8 fire ripped through the building next door.

"We've had a tremendous amount of mold, and smoke still infiltrating from the other building," Raihle said.

Raihle is dealing with more than $150,000 in damage, but said he's most frustrated by the thought of someone endangering so many lives.

"Buildings can be rebuilt, properties can be restored, but that was just absolutely incomprehensible that somebody would put that many people at risk," Raihle said.

"What I ask the public is that if they have any info that they have not come forward with, for whatever reason, to provide us with that info so we can follow up and investigate those leads to try to find some closure for the tenants and the owner," Micolichek said.

The Wisconsin Arson Insurance Council is offering up to $5,000 for anyone with more information on what might have started the fire.

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (NEWS RELEASE) - On Sept. 19th and 20th, the Chippewa Falls Police Department and the Chippewa Falls Fire and Emergency Service along with several fire investigators and forensic engineers examined the fire scene at 15 and 15 1/2 W. Spring St. in the city of Chippewa Falls. After a thorough examination it was determined that the origin of the fire was inside apartment #4. Although the cause of the fire at this time is deemed "undetermined", electrical has been eliminated as a contributing factor due to both the renter of apartment #4 and the building owner indicating that the electrical service to apartment #4 was disconnected at the time of the fire. A forensic engineer examined the electrical components in apartment #4 and confirmed that the components were not energized at the time of the fire. An examination of the kitchen appliances in apartment #4 further confirmed that the fire did not originate in the kitchen.

Furthermore, there were earlier reports of "electrical issues" with a service panel in second floor hallway. An examination of the fire scene along with eye witness accounts proved that the fire did not start in any of the electric service panels. Some artifacts from the apartment have been removed for further examination.

Due to the suspicious nature of the fire the Chippewa Falls Police Department is actively continuing its investigation. Although numerous people have been interviewed at this time, we believe there is still more information in the community that has not been provided.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department through the Wisconsin Arson Insurance Council is offering an award of up to $5000 for further information is this case. If you have a tip please contact the Wisconsin Arson Tip Line at 800-362-3005 or visit wiarsonhotline.org. You may also call the Chippewa Falls Police Department tipster line at 715-720-6944.

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) After two days of tearing down the burned building, Chippewa Falls fire investigators said an Aug. 8 downtown fire is now considered "suspicious."

Lead investigator Brian Micolichek said Friday that after investigating the Spring St. building destroyed in the fire, electrical issues were ruled out as a cause and it was determined that the fire started in the southeast apartment unit.

He said a $5,000 award is being offered for anyone with information on how the fire started.

WEAU will have more information on the investigation as it becomes available.

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CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wisc. (WEAU) - The cause of a destructive Chippewa Falls fire is still unknown, nearly three weeks after it was put out.

Investigators said they've ruled out some areas where it may have started, but will not be able to find a cause for at least a couple more weeks.

The Aug. 8 fire destroyed four apartment units and damaged three downtown Chippewa Falls businesses on Spring Street, kicking renters out of their homes and owners out of their stores. Firefighters said one person was treated with burnt hands.

After several hours, the flames were put out, but nearly three weeks later, many questions still remain.

"We can't rule anything out right now, we're still looking electrical, we're still looking at mechanical, and chemical, there's lot of different reasons why a fire starts, and we just need to rule out those before we can move on to other areas," Chippewa Falls Police Detective Sgt. Brian Micolichek, who is the lead investigator on the case said Tuesday.

"At least one of the floors inside have collapsed, which prevents us from being able to get in there in a timely fashion, conducting a full investigation," he said.

Investigators said the fire burned the longest in the southeast section of the building's second floor.

"Typically that's going to be an area to look at for an origin, it's not always the origin, but that's where we'll start looking," he said.

Micolichek said the next step is for the building's several insurance companies to tear the building down in the next few weeks, making it safer to inspect.

"You have such a large building that has to be basically torn apart piece by piece, looked at piece by piece and then decide where we're going to go from here," he said.

The Chippewa Falls Police Department is asking anyone with further information about the fire to contact them at (715) 723-4424.


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