Arson Suspect Sought In Garage Fire


A small fire in Strawberry smells suspicious to authorities.

Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Karen Baltz said she's identified the cause of a garage fire Tuesday on Dan's Highway as arson. Her investigation, which authorities hope will lead to the apprehension of the arsonist, was turned over to Detective George Ratliff Wednesday.

Pine-Strawberry Fire Marshal John Varljen is also calling the fire suspicious. We found the point of origin, but no ignition source -- a circumstance that is suspicious, Varljen said. Normally, the cause of an accidental fire -- a frayed wire, discarded cigarette -- can be found, he said.

The fire was burning in a pile of books, papers and magazines on top of a camper shell that sat on the floor of the garage toward the back, Varljen said.

Just after 7 p.m., Beth Carollo arrived at her home to find smoke coming from her garage, Baltz said.

Because she has no phone, Carollo then drove to the Strawberry Lodge to call for help, P-S Fire Chief Paul Coe said. P-S Captain Robert Lashua, who arrived seven minutes after the call, was the first on the scene.

"We arrived and the door was open, and a small pile was smoking," Lashua said. His crew extinguished the smoldering fire with a small blast of pressurized water and worked at ventilating the accumulated smoke that had blackened the garage ceiling.

Carollo and her young son sat on the deck while Varljen began to survey the damage and look for clues to its cause.

Both the sheriff's department and the fire department will continue their investigations. Damage was minimal, officials said, and cost estimates have not yet been compiled.

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