Crime & Courts

Fire official: Pour Haus blaze may have been started to hide crime

The Wichita Fire Department responds to a fire at the Pour Haus at the corner of Seneca and Maple. The call came in around 6:45 a.m. on Thursday from an employee of the restaurant who arrived on the scene to find smoke on the second floor. The firefighters were able to contain the fire quickly. No one was injured and the damage estimate is not yet known. (August 9, 2012)
The Wichita Fire Department responds to a fire at the Pour Haus at the corner of Seneca and Maple. The call came in around 6:45 a.m. on Thursday from an employee of the restaurant who arrived on the scene to find smoke on the second floor. The firefighters were able to contain the fire quickly. No one was injured and the damage estimate is not yet known. (August 9, 2012) The Wichita Eagle

Someone broke into the Pour Haus and stole money before setting the Delano restaurant on fire early Thursday morning, a Wichita fire investigator said Friday.

Investigators want to talk to anyone who saw activity around the restaurant at 1021 W. Maple, just east of Seneca, shortly before the fire was reported at 6:44 a.m., Capt. Stuart Bevis said.

“An employee who was driving by saw the smoke, went to investigate and discovered the fire,” Bevis said.

But several people called 911 to report the fire, he said, and investigators haven’t been able to track down all of them.

“We’d like to hear from them to see what they saw,” Bevis said of the callers who haven’t spoken with investigators.

The fire was set in the business’ second-story office. While the fire damage was primarily limited to the office, Bevis said, smoke and water damage to the brick building is extensive.

Damage was set at $40,000 to the structure and $30,000 to its contents.

“They’re going to be closed for a substantial amount of time,” Bevis said of Pour Haus.

Pour Haus owner Vaughn Smith, who opened the restaurant about four months ago, could not be reached for comment.

The thief or thieves stole “a few hundred dollars at least,” Bevis said.

It’s a reasonable hypothesis that the fire was set in an attempt to obscure the theft, he said.

The Kansas State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting in the investigation. Anyone with information about the case should call 316-337-9146, Bevis said.

There was another fire at the Pour Haus a few weeks ago, but Bevis said it was so minor that investigators weren’t even called to the scene.

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