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Friday Mitchell fire called suspicious

The back side of a house at 615 W. Fourth Ave. that was destroyed by fire early Friday morning in Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

A fire that destroyed an unoccupied house at 615 W. Fourth Ave. in Mitchell early Friday morning has been deemed suspicious.

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“It is under investigation,” said Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris. “People are being interviewed.”

No arrests had been made in connection with the fire as of Friday afternoon, Morris said. No one was injured in the fire, but the house has been declared a total loss.

The cause of the fire is, at this point, undetermined, Morris said. Investigators with the Mitchell Police Division, Mitchell Fire Division, Division of Criminal Investigation and State Fire Marshal’s Office were on the scene later Friday. The investigation, Morris said, will likely continue into next week.

At about 1:30 a.m. Friday, firefighters with the Mitchell Fire Division responded to reports of the smell of smoke in the neighborhood, Morris said.

“They turned the corner, and there was a house on fire,” he said.

A garage attached to the south side of the house was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, Morris said.

The fire spread to the house, but firefighters quickly knocked down the flames. There was some concern the fire could spread to other, nearby houses, but once the flames from the garage were contained, that risk was greatly reduced, Morris said.

“We never had a really out-of-control fire after they got that knocked down,” he said.

By 3 a.m., the blaze had been almost entirely put out, Morris said. Firefighters spent the rest of the morning dealing with remaining hot spots and areas still smoldering from the fire. The last firefighters left the scene at about 8 a.m., according to Morris.

The garage was destroyed by the fire, Morris said, and the house, which was still standing as of Friday afternoon, has extensive heat and smoke damage throughout.

There was a for-sale sign in the yard of the house, and it was listed for sale on Crane Realty’s website. The last listed occupants of the house were Joel and Brenda Ward. Joel Ward is listed as the home’s owner on the Davison County assessor’s website.

Rod Bahm, a neighbor who lives at 622 W. Fourth Ave., was woken up by the flashing lights from emergency vehicles parked outside his home early Friday morning.

“I got up and the whole street was covered in fire trucks,” he said in an interview Friday afternoon with The Daily Republic.

Bahm reported seeing nothing out of the ordinary in the neighborhood in the last few days.

Another neighbor, Jean Haiar, who lives at 601 W. Fourth Ave., was surprised to learn the fire was declared suspicious. Haiar woke Friday morning, she said, to a bad smell in her home.

“I saw all these lights and that’s the first I knew it was even burning,” she said.