Investigators: Arson caused kayak shop fire |

Investigators: Arson caused kayak shop fire

David Bunker and Alanna Lungren
Sierra Sun
Ryan Salm/Sierra SunChristian Adams and Matt Waskiewicz speak with Detective Stephanie Nivick among the debris of Wednesday's fire at Tahoe City Kayak on Thursday.

A fire that incinerated Tahoe City Kayak early Wednesday morning was caused by arson following a burglary of the store, according to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.

The fire took six engines to extinguish. It burned through the interior of the store and consumed much of the roof before it was put out.

Investigators were on the scene all day Wednesday, dousing hidden fires and sifting through the ashes to find clues on the fire and the burglary.

“The arson was probably set to cover up a burglary,” said Placer County sheriff’s Sgt. Dan Ingalls. The sheriff’s office did not release any information on the value of items missing.

Placer County sheriff’s arson investigator Helen Thomson explained that in general, to determine a fire was caused by arson, other causes of fire must be ruled out. These other causes can include lightning, a fire caused by smoking or an electrical fire.

The suspected arson surprised Tahoe City Kayak owner Andy Laughlin, who has owned the store for a year and managed it for two years before buying it.

“I couldn’t believe anyone would do that ” rob us and burn us down,” he said.

Laughlin said cash was stolen from the store’s cash drawer.

Tahoe City Kayak is still renting boats and operating tours out of the parking lot of their burned shop. Approximately 20, for-sale kayaks were burned, along with two racks of rental boats and life jackets, sunglasses, clothing and accessories, Laughlin said.

“We’re limping along,” he said.

Employees set up a tent and a cash register, and re-connected a phone line in a separate garage that was not engulfed in the fire, said Greg Field, marketing director for the store.

“We have a mobile operation right now,” Field said.

But the fire did a great deal of damage to the business, which sells kayaks and accessories and rents boats. The fire will halt the retail portion of the store for about a month in the busiest time of the year, Field said.

The business had theft insurance but no fire coverage, Field said.

“This is the time of year we actually start making profit,” he said.

The shop is now looking for either a temporary or permanent building to move into. The Tahoe City Downtown Association will have a donation collection boot to help support Tahoe City Kayak at their table at Sunday’s summer concert series at Commons Beach.

Field said the store is interested in moving to the vacant gas station at the wye in Tahoe City, or finding a retail location that is visible from the road.

Employees also set up a fund at Bank of America, which will accept donations from the community to help the business re-build.

The “Tahoe City Kayak Fire Fund” at the Bank of America is numbered 06093-40329.

The Placer County Sheriff’s office will continue the investigation of the case. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Stephanie Novick at 581-6322.

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