Warming hut fire disheartens club

Suspicious blaze destroys structure at site for second time in four years

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The Skitwish warming hut south of Honeysuckle Campground is now a pile of debris after it was destroyed by a fire that has been deemed suspicious by investigators.

Dale Adickes could only shake his head and throw up his arms after learning that a suspicious fire destroyed another warming hut in the Coeur d'Alene River area.

A fire destroyed the Skitwish warming hut between 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, and 12:30 p.m Tuesday, Nov. 22, according to the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office.

Adickes, a Coeur d'Alene Snowmobile Club board member and chairman of the Kootenai County Groomers Advisory Board, helped build both the hut that recently burned and the one that was destroyed four years ago.

"Why would someone want to do that?" Adickes said, referring to the latest fire. "We busted our humps to get it done. It ruins it for everybody."

Adickes, who lives in the Athol area, said the hut south of the Honeysuckle Campground below Skitwish Peak was not only used by snowmobilers, but those who rode ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles and hiked.

Investigators have identified a vehicle of interest in the case and are asking hunters who have game cameras in the area for additional information.

"During this time frame a red or maroon 1990s Ford Ranger, or similar type pickup, was seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed occupied by two people," a KCSO press release states. "The vehicle was also observed driving around a secured gate in the Wolf Lodge area."

The hut is off Forest Service Road 202 near Marie Saddle.

Snowmobile volunteers had recently stocked the hut with firewood for the winter. Donna Adickes, Dale's wife, said it's possible the firewood was stolen before the structure was burned.

An Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation grant of $21,393 funded the hut that was rebuilt in 2013. It took 798 volunteer man hours to construct the building. Much of the materials were donated or offered at a reduced price.

"The warming huts are out there for safety for families," Donna said. "They are a place to rest, have lunch or hunker down when there's bad weather. We get a lot of letters from people thanking us for having them so they could rest before heading out again."

It was the second time in four years the popular hut burned down.

"That road is supposed to be gated at both ends and no full-sized vehicles are supposed to be on it, but the gates were trashed and unusable," he said.

Dale said a woman who had mental disabilities set the original Skitwish hut — built in 2009 — on fire in hopes the smoke would help people find her.

Dale said he'll have to think about whether he wants to participate in constructing a third hut at the site and it would surprise him if another grant will be offered.

"Personally, I think I've had enough," he said.

Donna added: "We're too soon in the mourning stage (to determine if another hut at the site will be built)."

Donna said vandalism and firewood thefts at other huts have been an ongoing problem.

"We're getting used to that, but this one (at Skitwish) broke our hearts," she said.

Those with information about the latest fire are urged to contact KCSO Sgt. Will Klinkefus at wklinkefus@kcgov.us or call 446-1300.

This warming hut built for snowmobilers and ATV and motorcycle riders in the Coeur d'Alene River area was destroyed by fire. It was built in 2013 and replaced another hut that also burned down at the site.

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