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The Kansan - Newton, KS
  • Officials consider Walton fires suspicious

  • The Harvey County Sheriff’s Department and the Kansas State Fire Marshall’s Office are seeking information about the fire at Hilltop Convenience Store in Walton on Feb. 21.


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  • The Harvey County Sheriff’s Department and the Kansas State Fire Marshall’s Office are seeking information about the fire at Hilltop Convenience Store in Walton on Feb. 21.

    While the cause of the fire is still classified as undetermined, officials believe the business safe and other items were taken from the store prior to the fire, said Jim Sauerwein, senior investigator with the Harvey County Sheriff’s Office. Investigators are not releasing what other items were taken.

    Investigators also are considering the possibility the fire at the convenience store and another fire that night at East First and Rock Road in eastern Harvey County are related. The grass fire, about five and one-half miles away from Hilltop, was called in at 3:47 a.m., Sauerwein said, while the Hilltop fire was called in at 4:14 a.m.

    “It’s highly suspicious to have two fires 27 minutes and five miles apart,” Sauerwein said.

    Walton volunteer fire crews were the first on the scene of the grass fire. While Whitewater volunteer firefighters were in route, the Walton crews got word of the convenience store fire. They waited until the Whitewater crews arrived at the grass fire, then headed back to Walton.

    Newton, Hesston, Whitewater and Peabody fire departments provided mutual aid at the convenience store blaze.

    The fire at Hilltop destroyed the store and its contents, which Sauerwein said the owners had valued at more than $250,000. The business was closed at the time of the fire, and no one was injured.

    A nearby trailer home was evacuated, but the home was saved from damage.

    U.S. Highway 50 was shut down for about two hours during the fire because of heavy smoke drifting over the road.

    The grass fire burned some trees and underbrush, but no one was injured.

    Anyone with information on either fire is urged to call either the state reporting hotline at (800) KS-CRIME or Harvey County Crime Stoppers at 284-2400. Information will be kept confidential, and informants may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000.

    Sauerwein said while it may take a month or a year to find information on the fires, “I’m hopeful that we’ll get this one put to rest.”

    He said anyone with information on either fire should call, as information from one could prove helpful in investigating the other.

    “We’re interested in hearing what anybody has to say,” he said.

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