Investigators Pick Their Way Through Fire Scene

COEUR D’ALENE — A fence has gone up around the site of a devastating three-alarm fire that gutted a Coeur d’Alene building and investigators are working to figure out what caused one of the worst fires in the Lake City in recent memory.

As flames spilled out of the building on Sherman Avenue Sunday night Russell Pickup watched nearby.

“It was surreal, I was just in shock … most of the night,” Russell said. “It didn’t make sense.”

The flames and smoke brewed for four hours inside his business, Gamer’s Haven, and destroyed the apartments above and a tavern next door.

Pickup bought the game store just six months ago.

“It was my life … it’s all I had … now it’s gone,” he said,

Now the section of the building where his business was reduced to ashes is the center of an investigation. With water dripping from above, the state fire marshal and Coeur d’Alene police arson investigators weave through the charred debris.

“What we do is a systematic investigation,” Coeur d’Alene Deputy Fire Chief Glenn Lauper said. “Work from the least amount of damage to greatest amount of damage and our greatest amount of damage happens to be the area where the second floor collapsed.”

Deputy Chief Lauper added the building is unstable, making it difficult to begin searching for a cause. Lauper says they’re not ruling out arson, but haven’t included it either. What lies beneath the debris will be the key to determining whether or not the fire was intentionally set.

“This is a big building and we have a lot of damage and we just have to approach it one piece at a time,” Lauper said.

As for business owner Russell Pickup, he’s only searching for one answer in the ashes of his business.

“The only answers I need is whether or not my insurance is going to help me put my life back together,” Russell Pickup said.

The other business destroyed in the fire is the 1210 Tavern, which is considered a total loss. Bar owner Jerry Quass said he had wanted to own a bar for as long as he can remember.

“It’s unbelievable, I didn’t think it was that bad, its gone, not a darn thing you can do with it,” he said.

Jerry Quass bought the tavern just two years ago. He went to bed Sunday night thinking the inside only had smoke damage. By Monday morning it was apparent he had lost everything.

“It’s hard to see, everything is gone … my antique Coors pictures are gone,” he said.

His pool table has extensive water damage, the floors are covered with ash and everything else has been reduced to rubble.

“I’m going to miss it. I really am,” he said.

He was able to salvage an antique table, a few pool sticks, and a tin full of money from the burnt cash register. An old friend and former tavern owner came to help look for anything else they could save.

“It’s just devastating to see what the fire did to it,” former owner Bill Miller said.

Bill Miller says people have come to the bar for years to see old friends, and make new ones.

“I made a lot of friends down there, they are still my friends today,” Miller said.

But Jerry Quass says now the party will have to move.

“I want my bar back but that’s impossible,” Jerry said, adding that in time he hopes to rebuild the bar, either in the same location or some other place.