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Evidence Lost In Sallisaw Police Station Fire

The Times Record,

Sallisaw, OK

Sallisaw Police Department operations continue undeterred by the fire that gutted the department's old evidence room Tuesday, Police Chief Shaloa Edwards and City Manager Bill Baker said Thursday.

The room, located in the former city hall building, housed evidence from old cases, much of it years and years back, Baker said. Evidence in current and pending cases is housed elsewhere.

Edwards said some of the destroyed and damaged evidence dates back to cases from the 1980s. Evidence for major cases, such as murder cases, was stored elsewhere.

Edwards said he's waiting to see how much damage the computer that tracked the evidence sustained.

However, he said, all the information on the computer should be backed up on the server.

And while clearing out the fire-damaged room, staff logged all the evidence case numbers they could decipher.

Baker said the burn damage was limited to the interior of the evidence room. Its exterior, made of brick or rock, seems to be intact, he said. It won't take much to rebuild it.

The rest of the 70-year-old building received considerable smoke damage, and the city called in a cleanup crew to address that as well as to remove some seized drug lab precursor chemicals that were stored in there, he said.

"We didn't want to take any chances," Baker said.

He said Sallisaw's building and development crew will survey the building to determine what needs to be done to make it usable again.

Baker said no official cause for the fire has yet been determined. That decision will be made by the state fire marshal. However, Sallisaw firefighters think the cause may have been electrical, Baker said. The fire was extinguished within 15 minutes, he said.

The locked evidence room was also monitored by video camera, which caught a puff of smoke coming from the door, Baker said. He said it is unlikely the fire's cause could be arson as the room is "always secured," and even the firefighters had a hard time getting into it.

If the fire was caused by the electrical wiring, the city will examine the wiring in the entire building, Baker said.

Edwards said daily departmental operations have not been impacted, and "everything is still available."

Besides the evidence room, the damaged building held a few offices, including the chief's. Baker said those employees were moved into the new, adjacent police station Wednesday morning.

Edwards said the city awaits an insurance adjuster's estimate of damages.

"I think the biggest expense will be the cleanup, getting rid of the odor," Baker said.

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