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Palouse fire eighth such blaze in 10 months

UPDATED: Tue., April 8, 2014, 1:09 p.m.

The overnight fire at the Brick Wall Bar & Grill leveled the two-story historic structure in downtown Palouse, Wash. The Whitman County town has about 1,000 residents just north of Pullman near the Washington-Idaho border.
 (Bill Morlin )

An overnight fire destroyed a newly remodeled bar and grill in the Whitman County community of Palouse, marking the eighth such bar fire in the region in the last 10 months.

The cause of the fire at the Brick Wall Bar & Grill on Main Street in the community of 1,000 was under investigation, and local authorities said they intended to ask the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms & Explosives for assistance.

The fire was reported shortly before 4 a.m. and two dozen volunteers from Palouse Fire Department, Whitman County Rural Fire District and firefighters from Pullman and Colfax responded.

An initial inspection indicated the fire might be electrical in origin, said Palouse Fire Chief Mike Bagott. However, there were two pieces of evidence that caught fire investigators’ attention: spilled white paint outside the building and an unlocked rear door where the fire appeared to be centered.

The white paint appeared to be used in an attempt to scrawl a profanity on the street outside the bar that was scheduled for its public opening today, said Palouse Police Chief Jerry Neumann.

Since last June, seven bars in Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Northwestern Montana have been destroyed by fires, most of them during the overnight hours.

Investigators say the string of fires may be nothing more than a coincidence.

This story is developing and will be updated.