Police here are conducting a criminal investigation into the cause of a fire that gutted one business and damaged three others.
Police and fire officials aren't yet saying what caused the 2 a.m. Tuesday blaze on Main Street near 200 North, but business owners believe the fire was set to cover a burglary. "There is definitely a criminal investigation going on," said Spanish Fork police investigating officer Richard Hales. He said arson and a burglary have not been ruled out and that an active investigation is continuing.Lloyd Miller, volunteer fire chief, said no cause has been determined. He said he wasn't aware of a burglary. The state fire marshall's office is also investigating the fire. Miller said the investigation could take two or three weeks.
The fire left at least three businesses without an immediate home. Ron Chappell, owner of Best Brand Sewing and Vacuum, where the fire apparently started, also suspects arson, which he said was set to cover a burglary. He said it will take about a month to remodel the shop.
After the fire was out he poked around the burned-out shop looking for his 40 pound steel cash register. It wasn't there, he said. Then he found some canceled checks and bank statements under a brick in the rear parking lot. "I think they set the fire to hide the crime," he said. Chappell said he had only $40 in the cash reg-is-ter.
He said the fire broke the valve to the natural gas line in his shop and raw gas was feeding the blaze until it was shut off. The fire gutted the sewing and vacuum repair shop and blew out windows on the adjacent stores. Chappell said that despite losing his shop, which he's had for six years, he's not out of business. He does a lot of work out of the shop repairing built-in vacuum systems and doing other work at his customers' homes. He said he planned on transferring his calls to a cell phone.
From Chappell's store the fire spread to Dirty Jo Punsters, a lingerie and adult novelty store next door and J&J Construction on the opposite side. It also damaged Chris Hair Center, a barber shop next to the lingerie shop.
Dirty Jo Punsters will open at another location with some "smokin' hot deals," according to an answering machine message. The message blames the fire on arson.
Shayne and Tresa Ahlin, who own Dirty Jo Punsters, also own Angel Babies across the street, a children's clothing store. That store was closed for at least a day because of the fire, a note taped to the door said. Neither the Ahlins or the owners of J&J Construction could be reached for comment nor did they return repeated telephone calls.
Larry Christensen, owner of the barber shop and the building where Dirty Jo Punsters was housed, said his barber shop should reopen soon. It suffered only smoke and water damage.
Miller estimated the loss to the buildings at $250,000, plus the contents.