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Finding the cause: Bisbee Fire Department confirms where the Valentine's Day Fire started on Main Street

Posted at 4:59 PM, Apr 18, 2024

BISBEE, Ariz. (KGUN) — The investigation into the cause of Bisbee’s Valentines Day fire, that destroyed two historic buildings and damaged a third, is complete. Bisbee Fire Chief, Jim Richardson, is still waiting for the official report, which would include a cause of the fire.

Investigators spent seven hours on scene on Monday, looking for a cause of this fire. The official report hasn’t been turned in yet, but Richardson says they know where it started; in a utility room at 30 Main Street.

"We’re confident in saying the fire started in this room here,” he told KGUN.

Richardson, who says this is the largest fire the city has had while he's been chief, says char patterns and evidence of the fire progression indicate the back room in the building is where the fire started.

“There’s a staircase (and) the door was left open," which is how he says the fire spread. "The fire consumed this room and went straight up.”

Richardson says 12 investigators assisted his department in the investigation, including locally from the Fry Fire District. He says ATF and investigators from the insurance company were also on scene.

“This was a big deal," Richardson said. "We wanted to make sure we got it right.”

The challenge was navigating a scene that had been destroyed, since the second floor caved in a month ago.

“The biggest hold up was trying to dig out everything that was covering what we were trying to look for," Richardson said. "There’s a huge pile of rubble we had to remove just get down to the fire area.”

The Chief told KGUN that crews spent a week clearing debris before they started the investigation on Monday, however, they still had to move things out of the way.

“(There's) probably another four or five pallets on top of what’s here already that was pulled out of the area as well," Richardson said. "So that whole area caved in and dropped into the fire scene.”

Bisbee Mayor Ken Budge says the city currently owes $270,300 in bills, with the largest expense being the brick removal process. He expects more bills to come and for some of the money to be returned.

“We will be filing claims against the one building that does have insurance," Budge said. "The other one doesn’t and so our city attorney will probably put a lien on that one.”

Budge said the one lane of traffic on Main Street is going to be around for a while and for Richardson and the report, he hopes that it’s released soon but doesn’t have a timetable for it.

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Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing alexis.ramanjulu@kgun9.com or by connecting on Facebook.