Cause determined in fatal fire

Spearfish Fire Department members responded to a house fire in September, which claimed the life of a local man. Pioneer file photo by Mark Watson

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SPEARFISH – Department of Public Safety officials in Spearfish have determined the cause of a house fire which claimed the life of 45-year-old Robert Douglas Brockley in September.

“The cause of the fire has been determined as deliberate with area of origin being the kitchen and living room,” according to a prepared statement by the city. “A gasoline container was found on the kitchen counter adjacent the natural gas stove. The ignition source for the gas stove was a burner igniter that was found in the on position. The investigation eliminated all other sources of ignition.”

Brockley was the only person in the residence at the time of the incident. He was treated for injuries related to fire and heat exposure and later transported to a trauma center in Colorado where he succumbed to those injuries.

Spearfish Fire Chief Scott Deaver said due to Brockley’s death the case will remain open and many details will not be released.

“The specific details will remain (undisclosed) because it’s considered still an open investigation,” he said. 

The unfortunate incident marks the first major investigation handled by the city’s new Department of Public Safety structure.

“There’s always been a collaboration (between police and fire investigators),” Deaver said. “There are certain things, such as evidence collection and preservation, that police do much better than fire departments; and there’s much better things such as (fire) investigations and what we’re looking at fire departments do much better than police departments do.”

Deaver said the new collaborative structure made for an effective and efficient investigation, and expressed his gratitude to everyone who was involved.

“The combination of two disciplines coming together … (it’s) the best for the community,” he said.

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