'Suspicious' fire destroys pickup

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WALLA WALLA -- A late-night fire destroyed one vehicle and damaged another, officials said today.

Walla Walla Fire District 4 responded to 3300 Isaacs Ave. at about 10 p.m. Monday to find a 1994 Mazda pickup fully engulfed in flames, and heat damage to a dump truck parked next to the pickup, according to the fire department's report.

Two engines, one water tender and about 11 firefighters arrived to extinguish the blaze, noted Fire Chief Rocky Eastman.

Reports indicate the fire took about an hour to put out. The Mazda was a total loss, Eastman said. While there is yet no indication of cause, his department is considering the incident "suspicious," he noted.

The trucks belong to Royse Hydroseeding and Excavation. Company owner John Royse said the blaze took him by surprise and that investigators indicated to him it could be a case of arson.

The gas caps of both vehicles had been removed and the fuel from the dump truck was "completely gone," Royse said this morning. "We're not sure if it was siphoned out onto the other vehicle or if they stole the fuel."

The Mazda was an older company truck and definitely not the "pride of the fleet," the owner added. "We're racking our brains to think of why this was done ... we're hoping it was a random act."

The investigation is continuing, noted Cristal Harris, detective for the Walla Walla Sheriff's Office. Staff there was involved in training today and could not add to information by press time.

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