An electrical issue was the probable cause of the fire that destroyed the Chuckwagon Convenience Store and Gas Station in Story last week. But state fire investigator Richard Embrey said no final ruling can be made until an analysis by an electrical engineer is completed.
The fire broke out Thursday, in the pre-dawn hours. Sheridan and Goose Valley firefighters responded, as well as Story volunteer firefighters. The outer walls of the convenience store were still intact, but the state fire investigator said the inside of the building was a total loss.
He said the State Fire Marshal's office was contacted on the day of the fire, but no investigation could begin until the next day, because the metal roof of the building had collapsed into the structure. In addition to Embrey, the Sheridan County sheriff's office, federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and another official from the fire marshal's office were called to the scene. He said a backhoe was brought in to clear away debris, which was a process that took about four hours. Story firefighters stayed on the scene all of that night.
The fire started in one of the two walk-in refrigerators, on the west side of the building, where a copper wire was found, missing the insulation. The fire investigator said a hole had been melted where the insulation was missing, and heat from the contact of the exposed wire and a copper pipe could have ignited the flammable insulation in the wall. He said the insulation could have been smoldering a few hours or, possibly, for days before the flames ignited.
The owner of the building is reported to be Harry Washut. Sheridan Media has been unable to reach him. Story Fire Chief Mike Onstott said the Chuckwagon was the only gas station in the community, but there is a full-service grocery store in the former fire station. Story is about 20 miles south of Sheridan, with a population of less than 900 people.