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Nicholasville warehouse fire is ruled accidental

NICHOLASVILLE — Investigators said a Dec. 3 fire that gutted a warehouse and offices was caused when a Collett Plumbing employee accidentally ignited some paper with a soldering iron.

"At this time, we're not charging him," Nicholasville Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Baker said.

The fire destroyed a two-story building that had a basement bay for storage and vehicles below, plus offices above for Collett Plumbing, Aper Insulation and Simpson & Co. Painting Contractors. The building is in a commercial park off U.S. 27, north of Nicholasville, that once was the site of a drag strip.

The plumbing-company employee, whose hair was singed by the fire, initially told investigators that he didn't know what had caused the blaze, Baker said.

"We spent two days digging through and sifting through and digging the rubble," he said. "Through just slow, methodical work, we were able to determine the sequence of events, and they didn't fit up very well with the story."

When the employee was questioned again, "he admitted he had been working on some components of his vehicle in the bay and had been using a soldering iron," Baker said. "And he set it down, and it set some paper on fire. He did try to extinguish it without any luck. And after that, he just got kind of scared."

The fire was investigated by the year-old Nicholasville Arson Task Force, composed of both police and firefighters who cross-train and conduct joint investigations into suspicious fires.

"By doing this, when the detectives went in there to interrogate this guy, they knew exactly what questions to ask," Baker said.