Comments Off on Methamphetamine lab? Fire in vacant garage also destroyed historic Vinton carriage house

For the second time this month, a Vinton garage has been destroyed in a fire that has local residents wondering if it could be related to a meth lab.

This time, the fire claimed a historic Vinton landmark, as well.

Residents near the area of 9th street and A and First Avenue reported hearing a loud explosion and seeing flames coming from two buildings: The garage behind the vacant house at 908 A Avenue, and Joe Wehage’s historic carriage house, which he had converted into an office area.

The Wehages have lived at 907 First Avenue for the past seven years, and Joe renovated the carriage house with a combination of historical flavor and a modern man-cave décor which included an octagon conference table with an optional poker top.

Joe had the poker table all set up for a scheduled open house on Sunday; the Wehage home is for sale.


But at around 10 p.m. Thursday night, a fire in the garage next to the carriage house quickly spread, engulfing both structures. By Friday morning, only the west wall of Wehage’s carriage house remained standing. Fire Chief Gary McKenna said firemen were on the scene virtually all night, leaving around 4:15 to 4:30 a.m. Crews from the Vinton Municipal Electric Utility arrived to replace a pole and other infrastructure Friday morning.

Joe and his family had planned to leave for a vacation Friday morning. Instead, Joe began the day discussing the events of the past 10 hours with his neighbors, and sitting on the porch, making phone calls to insurance and other personnel, in an effort to begin the recovery process.

The official cause of the fire is ruled as “inconclusive.” Vinton Police Lt. Bruce Smith said that so far authorities have found no evidence of a meth lab. More information will be available to authorities after an investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Smith said.

Rumors of the meth lab began quickly after the fire, said Smith. However, he said, the “popping” noises that witnesses heard could have been simply the natural sounds of old lumber burning.

A fire seven blocks away, at 704 East 8th Street, earlier in May, led to the arrest of a Vinton man on a warrant from another county. That case remains under investigation.





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