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Watkins Pharmacy in Cascade burns down

The fire started early Tuesday morning while the pharmacy was closed.

CASCADE, Idaho — Editor's note: This story, initially published Tuesday, Feb. 8, has been updated with the cause of the fire, which has been ruled an accident.

A pharmacy in Cascade is a total loss after it caught fire early Tuesday morning. 

The fire at Watkins Pharmacy, located at 104 Main Street, was reported at 2:46 a.m. by Valley County Sheriff's Office deputies, according to dispatch.

The building burned to the ground, and was still smoking for several hours afterward.

The pharmacy was closed for the night when the flames were first reported.

Idaho State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl is handling the investigation. On Thursday afternoon, his office said investigators have determined the fire was an accident. Sandahl said hours of interviews, video from nearby businesses, and numerous photos sent to the team from people who live nearby helped "tremendously" in making the determination.

The fire marshal's office said video evidence showed the fire burned undetected for at least 2 1/2 hours before a passing Valley County Sheriff's Deputy noticed it. The video also showed the fire was initially centered around a rooftop HVAC unit.

The fire was not visible to firefighters until a portion of the ceiling collapsed. The fire marshal's office said, "fortunately, Fire Chief Steven Hull recognized rapidly deteriorating conditions and pulled crews out of the building just prior to the ceiling collapse."

During interviews with the owners, Benjamin and Amber Watkins, investigators learned a new roof was added in 2021. Sandahl said the reroofing project "provided a void area, causing the fire to burn a prolonged amount of time."

Construction documents from the Cascade Building Department and the previous owner provided key information on the fire's spread and location, according to Thursday's news release from the State Fire Marshal's Office and Idaho Dept. of Insurance, and physical evidence "confirmed the suspicion of investigators during the scene investigation."

Local resident Stacia Boston said many residents who relied on the pharmacy will now need to plan trips to McCall to get their prescriptions filled - a particular hardship for the small town's senior citizens.

"Please join us in prayer for our family of Watkins Pharmacy. The loss of Watkins Pharmacy is such a loss to our community," the Lake Cascade Recreation Area & Cascade Chamber of Commerce wrote in a Facebook post. "Our heartfelt prayers are with our Watkins family."

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