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Saturday, June 6, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Investigators Search For Link In String Of Fires Accelerant Fueled Fire That Destroyed Coeur D’Alene Building

Authorities say they have no suspects in a series of fires set around Kootenai County that damaged two buildings and burned three fields.

One of the fires gutted a midtown Coeur d’Alene business and upstairs apartment early Tuesday, sending its owner fleeing.

An unoccupied garage in Post Falls and two nearby open fields burned within two hours of the Coeur d’Alene blaze. Fire also torched a Rathdrum field a few hours later.

Investigators have no direct link between the fires, but authorities in each of the cities are sharing information about their cases to determine if more than time and day connect them.

“It’s unusual to have a large number of fires like that in the same day,” said Richard Kirsch, Coeur d’Alene’s interim fire chief. “It’s something that is being looked at, but we don’t know if there’s a connection.”

No one was injured in any of the fires, but damage is expected to exceed $100,000.

An accelerant was used to fuel a fire that ripped through Elias’ Tailor Shop, a beauty salon and upstairs apartment about 3 a.m., Kirsch said. Both businesses were in the process of being remodeled.

The fire started in a doorway that leads to the apartment and at a side door leading to a storage space, said Glenn Lauper, state deputy fire marshal. Samples taken from the building were sent to the state crime lab to determine what type of accelerant was used.

A motive for the fire and suspect have not been established. Damage was estimated at more than $100,000.

“We’ve still got a lot of unanswered questions,” Kirsch said.

A smoke detector woke Elias Hawatmeh, the building’s owner who lived in the apartment and was home when the fire started. His family was out of town.

Authorities questioned Hawatmeh, but are not calling him a suspect. Hawatmeh has cooperated fully with the investigation, Lauper said.

“Whenever you’ve got a suspicious fire, you’ve got to check out everything,” Kirsch said.

Meanwhile, investigators believe three Post Falls fires set after 1 a.m. Tuesday are related. All three started during a 40-minute span along a 1-1/2-mile stretch of Chase Road.

A cause has not been determined, but “we’ve ruled out everything accidental,” said Dan Ryan, Post Falls division chief.

One of the fires caused about $4,000 in damage to a free-standing garage. The other two burned square patches of about 40 and 10 feet.

In Rathdrum, fire burned brush in an 80-by-30-foot patch about 9:30 a.m. near Hidden Valley and Slaughter House Road, said Deputy Chief Bob Maines. The fire did not damage any structures.

, DataTimes

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