A fire that destroyed both sides of a duplex on Halloween night is suspicious, fire officials said.
No one was injured by the fire, which ravaged the unoccupied unit at 10908 E. 12th and extensively damaged the adjoining unit at 10906 E. 12th.
The lone tenant of the duplex is involved in a messy divorce and accused a relative of trying to burn him out, fire officials said.
Eric Olson, Valley Fire District’s deputy fire marshal, said the fire appears to have been set. He is following leads, including the tenant’s relative, but did not name any suspects.
Olson called in a dog trained to sniff for flammable liquids on Friday. Results of the search were unavailable.
The fire apparently started near the sliding glass door behind the unoccupied unit, probably outside, Olson said.
Neighbors reported the fire about 8:30 p.m. last Thursday. By the time firefighters arrived, flames ripped at the attic.
At one point, flames from the blaze shot as high as 20 feet in the air, Olson said.
“It got into the attic real quickly,” Olson said. “We had some difficulty putting it out.”
Karl Richardson, who lived in the unit at 10906 E. 12th, was out visiting friends when the fire started. He had lived in the duplex for three years and lost nearly everything he owned in the blaze.
Richardson’s three young children often visited him at the duplex. They were scheduled to spend Friday night with their father.
“It took every last penny I had to buy their beds,” sobbed Richardson, who is staying with friends until he finds a new place to live.
Friday morning, Richardson scuffled briefly with a relative in the street near the duplex.
Although they were separated by a car door, the two swung at each other’s heads and yelled obscenities. Neither appeared to land a blow. The relative drove off seconds after the tussle ended.
“That’s the guy that I think did it,” Richardson said afterward. “He told me I’m a dead man.”
A sheriff’s deputy was called to the scene when the relative returned to check his mail, but no arrests were made.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 photos