BURLEY — A fire has gutted an empty building and an unexploded bomb was found across the street in the doorway of a new unopened restaurant as downtown Burley was sent into chaos early Monday.
A boom rumbled the downtown buildings as a bomb squad from Twin Falls detonated the device shortly after 8 a.m. The restaurant, Kassiani Restaurant, Bakery and Events, owned by Brek Pilling. Pilling's business partner Brian Tibbets owns the burned building.
No one was injured.
At the restaurant, the bomb’s fuse had been lit but it did not detonate, leaving investigators with potentially important evidence. The state fire marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have joined the investigation, Burley Fire Chief Shannon Tolman said. Firefighters found the bomb while they were working on the blaze across the street.
Meanwhile, authorities are hoping someone may have more information about a suspicious white pickup spotted in the area around the time they believe the bombs were set, likely about 1 a.m., said Cassia County Undersheriff George Warrell.
Even as the sun set Monday, the city’s main thoroughfare resembled a war zone, with authorities mopping up and removing debris from the burned-out shell of the vacant building. The Cassia County Sheriff’s Office shut down Overland Avenue from the 1200 to the 1400 block, concerned about the building’s stability.
Earlier, water and fire foam puddled in the gutters along the west side of Overland Avenue in the 1200 block as bewildered shop owners looked on. At about 10 a.m., barber Andrew Grumbein was able to open his shop in the 1300 block.
“They are allowing people to walk on the sidewalk from 14th Street to 13th Street,” he said.
On Overland Avenue, other businesses were still closed from Main Street to 13th Street while the investigation continued.
Shalee Garner, who owns Straight Stitching a few doors down from the burned building, said she has been unable to even retrieve her computer from the store. She found out about the fire after an employee arrived at 5:30 a.m. and called her. Garner has an extensive inventory of material at the store and is worried about water or smoke damage.
“I could be shut down a month if there is smoke damage,” Garner said. “I hope it’s not too bad.”
A call came into 911 about 1 a.m. reporting smoke and flames coming from the backdoor of the building.
“The fire started inside the building in the back corner by the alley,” said Tolman. “It then ripped through the upper story. The basement of the building is full of water right now.”
Firefighters contained the fire in that building, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether other structures were damaged by smoke and water. The building next door at 1226 Overland Ave. is also owned by Pilling and was damaged by water.
“Both are a total loss,” Tolman said.