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Suspicious fire levels Tacoma Avenue garage

A late-night fire that leveled a stand-alone garage on Tacoma Avenue in Port Orchard Tuesday night is under investigation as arson.

The fire, which started sometime after 10:30 p.m., quickly engulfed the structure and the car stored inside. When fire personnel arrived just before 11 p.m., the building was fully involved.

Port Orchard Police officers were called in because a neighbor and a passerby said they were suspicious of how the fire started, based on what they had seen.

The garage’s next-door neighbor said he had heard an explosion, which he likened to a bomb going off, just before the garage erupted into flames. The other witness said he saw a smaller fire at the back of the garage first, then watched the fire grow larger as he ran for help.

Both the car and garage, worth an estimated $1,000, were completely destroyed.

Because of the witness reports, fire officials believe the fire may have been started deliberately. However, Fire District 7 Spokeswoman Lisa Kirkemo said it is unlikely the fire or the explosion was the result of a methamphetamine lab — a common cause of unexplained garage explosions in South Kitsap.

“There was no indication that I saw of that in the report,” she said.

Fire Marshal Derrick Crawley agreed.

“There were no visible signs of a meth operation,” Crawley said, adding the house to which the garage belonged is currently vacant and in the process of being refurbished.

Crawley said the preliminary investigation indicated the fire had started inside the car parked in the garage. The car, he said, was up on blocks and clearly abandoned. That means it is unlikely the car had anything in it that might have spontaneously caught fire.

“Not many accidental ignition sources,” Crawley said.

At this point, he said, it appears unlkely the investigation will go further.

Because the fire started at night, and the house sits off the road in a little-traveled area, Crawley doubts anyone saw whoever started the fire. Unless a witness comes forward, he said he doubts a suspect will be found.

“There’s really no suspect data to follow up on,” Crawley said. “That’s all we have right now.”

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