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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

An Eminence man has been charged with arson in connection with a weekend fire that destroyed an Eminence business.

The fire is still under investigation by the Kentucky State Police and their arson investigator.

Michael Wells, 46, was arrested Saturday night in La Grange and charged with third degree arson, disorderly conduct and terroristic threatening in connection with the fire that destroyed Eminence Auto Parts/NAPA Saturday night.

Wells is the son of the store’s owner, Bill Wells, and officials confirmed Tuesday that he was employed at the store.

According to Eminence Police Department Major Kevin Kemper, Wells became a suspect after witnesses reported seeing him near the store before the fire.

Kemper said Wells was arrested without incident Saturday night at the Comfort Suites in La Grange after Constable Brandon Cobb received an anonymous tip that Wells was spotted there. Wells was arrested without incident and “very quickly” invoked his Miranda rights.

Kemper said he charged Wells with terroristic threatening based on witness statements that Wells was making threats to his father. EPD Chief Carey Duncan said Wells “made a threat that was likely to result in death or serious injury to another person.”

The arson and disorderly conduct charges were levied by KSP, whose investigating officer was unavailable for comment at press time.

Dispatchers at KSP Post 5 received a call that Eminence Auto Parts/NAPA was on fire at 6:42 p.m. Saturday. Kemper was on the scene early, and said he could see smoke from the fire “on the other side of town.”

Kemper said that when he arrived on the scene, he saw smoke coming out “pretty evenly around the building, coming from the eaves and vents.”

The fire represented a unique challenge for firefighters, according to Eminence Volunteer Fire Department Chief Gary Lucas.

“Your worst nightmare as a firefighter is to have an auto parts store or car dealership (on fire),” he said.

The fire was difficult for firefighters, particularly when flames came in contact with acetylene tanks in the store, resulting in several explosions, though Lucas said none of the oxygen tanks in the store exploded.

Lucas said there were several flashovers that “rattled our chimes,” but did not cause injuries to any of the firefighters. In fact, he added, none of the firefighters were injured during the fire, though several were monitored by EMS crews. He said the intense heat of the fire, combined with already hot conditions were a stressor on firefighters.

Lucas said it appeared that the fire started in the store’s front office.

Fire crews from throughout the county, including Eminence, Pleasureville, New Castle and Lake Jericho, responded, as did Shelby County. La Grange and Campbellsburg Fire Departments were on stand by. In all, Lucas said, about 40-50 firefighters were involved Saturday night.

Wells was taken to Carroll County Regional Detention Center, where he was later released after posting 10 percent of a $5,000 bond. He could be arraigned as early as Sept. 3, though a date has not yet been posted.

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