'Somebody's torching 'em'

Another suspicious fire reported at condemned mobile home park

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SHAWN GUST/Press Kootenai County Fire and Rescue personnel fight a blaze that totally destroyed a trailer home Tuesday at the El Rancho park in Post Falls.

POST FALLS - Another fire deemed suspicious by investigators destroyed a mobile home in a Post Falls park that's been shut down.

The blaze started around 1:15 p.m. Tuesday at the El Rancho Mobile Home Park at the northwest corner of Highway 41 and Mullan Avenue, the second "suspicious" fire since August at the mostly-vacated park.

"I wouldn't doubt (arson as the cause), I really wouldn't," said Lyle Streeter, park manager, who was near the trailer when it caught fire. "I don't think it would happen twice in a row."

Nobody was injured in the fire, which sent thick, black clouds up in the sky.

Residents were asked to be out of the park July 31, and most have left. Six trailers on the 70-lot site are still occupied, neighbors said. Witnesses described hearing loud popping explosions, then seeing the trailer go up in flames. They didn't hear or see anyone near the trailer beforehand, they said.

"These things don't start by themselves," said Bob Flom, who lives a couple trailers away from the burned trailer, and was preparing his trailer for moving when he saw the fire suddenly burst. "Somebody's torching 'em."

While the blaze destroyed the mobile home, another fire started in a second trailer about 300 feet away. It never fully caught, and fire crews were able to quickly contain it.

Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Cpt. Rick Clutter could not comment on the cause of the fire Tuesday afternoon other than it was "awfully suspicious." KCFR, Northern Lakes and Coeur d'Alene Fire departments responded to the scene.

Residents in the 50-year-old park at 3957 E. Mullan Ave. were notified in February that they had to move out by July 31.

The 8.7-acre park site is considered prime commercial ground since it's at one of the busiest intersections in North Idaho, according to Press articles about the evacuation of the park. A group of developers and investors called 41 and Mullan Investments, LLC. bought the property five years ago for a reported $3.32 million.

Last winter Vandervert Developments and five other partner investors parted ways and split their properties. FF, LLC acquired El Rancho.

Randall Probasco, a Coeur d'Alene attorney representing FF, LLC, couldn't be reached for comment on Tuesday. In a previous Press article he said the park was being shut down because of its deteriorated condition, which was a health hazard, but there weren't plans to build anything at the time.

In August, two mobile homes caught fire at the park, which investigators called suspicious. No injuries were reported in that incident. Shaena Dunn, Kootenai County Fire and Rescue spokeswoman, said the department hasn't been investigating it because the home was abandoned and invested parties aren't interested in pursuing it.

SHAWN GUST/Press Two firefighters work the scene of a suspicious fire in Post Falls.

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