Officials are preparing arson case for St. George fire

By The Mercury

Pottawatomie County and state fire officials are preparing a case for the county attorney for an arson fire at St. George the night of April 9.

Bruce Brazzle, county fire supervisor, told county commissioners Monday a fire was intentionally set about 11:20 p.m. outside of an apartment above the Green Chicken Tavern in downtown St. George. The fire caused some damage to the building, he said.

Brazzle would not say if an arrest had been made, but said the charge in the incident would be aggravated arson.

Assisting Brazzle in the investigation are detectives with the sheriff’s department and the state fire marshal’s office.

This is the second arson fire at St. George in the past few months. An incendiary fire in mid-January which destroyed a home at 520 Jefferson is also being prepared for prosecution, Brazzle said.

“We’re getting the majority of them taken care of,” Brazzle said in response to Commissioner Stan Hartwich’s query about arson fires last year in the Onaga area.

“That’s a moot issue,” Brazzle said. “We know who did it, but according to the county attorney we don’t have enough evidence to prosecute.”

Brazzle said investigators have talked to the individuals and there have been no arson attempts in the Onaga area since.

Brazzle also told commissioners he is getting complaints about pasture fires burning power poles, plastic gas line markers, and posts on county signs.

He recommended sending letters to landowners warning them they may be charged for damages to county property. Commissioners agreed, but said the county should not get involved in damage to private utility poles or gas lines.

The commission also authorized Brazzle to solicit bids for both a wood frame and metal frame building for a new Emergency medical Services building planned for the industrial park at Westmoreland.

In other business Monday, Chris Trudo, emergency management director, told commissioners Pott County escaped almost without incident from the weekend storms which spawned about 100 tornadoes across Kansas.

“We just literally skated by this time,” Trudo said, noting that he and Brazzle had been monitoring the situation since Friday, beginning with a webinar put on by the National Weather Service.

County storm sirens were activated four times early Sunday morning, mostly in the northern portion of the county.

“Some of our storms lost their strength as they moved through the county,” he said. NWS radar showed a “hook echo,” indicating a tornado moving toward Onaga about 1:30 a.m., but the storm lost strength and veered west, he said.

Trudo said they were also in touch with officials at Rock Creek and St. Marys High Schools, where proms were being held Saturday night.

“As exciting as it was, I’m glad we don’t have anything to talk about with FEMA this time,” he said, indicating there was only one report of damage in the county.

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