A fire that started in shop building near Tom and Shirley Langston’s residence two miles north of Deaver around 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoon not only consumed the building but killed the couple’s pet dogs and a 4-H show rabbit that were kenneled inside the building. It also spread to and destroyed a 2012 Peterbilt truck cab worth approximately $200,000 that was parked nearby. The couple was not home at the time.
According to Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn, high winds fanned the flames and spread burning embers that caused smaller fires to erupt nearby. The fire was so hot, said firefighter Bob Mangus, that it melted siding on two homes located near the burning building.
Deaver/Frannie firefighter Daren Wagner was one of the first responders at the scene. Wagner noted that though the Deaver/Frannie volunteer fire crew was on the scene fairly quickly, there was “no saving anything” by the time they reached the burning building. The situation kept firefighters from the volunteer fire department at the scene for several hours. Wagner said he was still putting out small fires caused by burning embers on Monday. Crews from the volunteer fire department in Lovell assisted.
Wagner said that strong winds increased the threat to nearby structures. He noted that the fire was so hot that it melted the plastic bumper on a car that was parked nearby.
“Everybody did a great job,” said Wagner. “We were really grateful to have Jim Minchow and the Lovell crew assist us on this one. It was a pretty big fire for us.”
According to Blackburn, a considerable amount of evidence found at the scene indicated arson may have been the cause. An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s office was called. The investigator arrived at approximately 8 p.m. on Sunday and a joint arson investigation with the sheriff’s team began.
“This was a pretty vicious crime,” said Blackburn. “Not only did it harm the animals but many firemen were put in harm’s way, too. All of these firemen are heroes. They did an outstanding job.
Craig Sorensen was one of seven responders from the Deaver/Frannie fire crew.
“This was a senseless crime that did a lot of damage,” said Sorensen. “This was a big loss for the people (residing on the property).”
A $1,000 reward has been offered through a private party for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who committed the arson.
“This is not acceptable behavior and we should not tolerate people who do this in our community,” said Blackburn. “We need members of the community to come forward, if they have any information that will help with the investigation.”
By Patti Carpenter