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By LeAnn R. Ralph
MENOMONIE — After investigators determined a suspicious fire had started inside a shed, a 45-year-old Boyceville man accused of setting the fire said it could not have started inside because his dog would never let anyone else in the shed.
Jason M. Figler, who appeared before Judge James Peterson May 19 for a preliminary hearing, is charged with one Class C felony count of arson to a building.
According to the criminal complaint, on May 14 at approximately 1:30 p.m., Figler called Dunn County Dispatch to say the inside of his garage, located just outside the village of Boyceville in the Town of Tiffany, was on fire.
While Dunn County deputies were on their way to the scene, Boyceville Police Chief Greg Lamkin contacted them to say there was a stack of wood on fire inside the garage, and it appeared to be arson. Police Chief Lamkin said the renter on the scene, Jason Figler, was in disagreement with his landlord and was acting strangely.
When deputies asked Figler what had happened, he said he had “no idea” and that he had been inside of the house, and the garage had just started smoking. When asked what had drawn his attention to the fire, Figler talked about the other Rottweilers in the house and about consistently letting them in and out.
Figler said he came outside and saw the smoke, that he had another Rottweiler in the garage that he let out and that he grabbed the fire extinguisher and the whole wall of the garage was on fire, according to the complaint.
When the deputy entered the garage, one wall was charred black near an electrical outlet. Black char was heavy near the bottom of the wall, thinned out as it went up the wall and then spread out again near the ceiling. Near the floor was a circular pattern indicating where the fire had started.
The deputy observed there was no heavy damage to the outside of the garage, other than the firefighters taking the wall off to get to the inside. Wood that had been at the base of the fire had been thrown outside, with part of it extremely black while other parts of the wood were untouched.
A security camera located above the door to the shed was later determined to be a fake. There was a control panel, and one breaker was turned off. None of the breakers had tripped, indicating the fire did not start through the electrical outlet, according to the complaint.
When the deputy contacted the arson investigator and described what he had found, the arson investigator said all indications pointed toward arson.
When the deputy asked Figler about the security camera, he said it was fake, and when the deputy noted lights blinking on the camera, Figler said it was powered by batteries and pulled the cord out of the wall and showed the deputy it was not connected to anything.
The deputy asked Figler if his dog was inside the kennel or inside the building, and Figler said the dog was in the building. He said when he got the dog out, the whole wall was on fire, that he got the fire extinguisher and put out as much of the fire as he could, and that he put the dog inside the camper, the complaint states.
The deputy asked if the dog did not like people, and Figler said he does, but does not like guns.
Figler asked the deputy if someone had used an accelerant on the outside of the shed and said someone was “f***ing with me.”
The deputy informed Figler the fire had started inside the garage, and Figler asked, “how would have the fire started inside with him in there.” Figler told the deputy “there was not a person in the world that would come through the gate with the dog in there.
Jason stated not even his friends because they know that dog,” according to the complaint.
After Figler’s wife arrived, the deputy told Figler “my base point of confusion was that no one would go into the garage because his dog was in there, and he agreed. I asked if the fire started in the garage, and he agreed. I asked how someone got in the garage if his dog was in there, and he stated they wouldn’t. [Figler’s wife] asked me what had happened. I informed her we would talk to her in a minute and to wait by her vehicle,” according to the complaint.
The deputy placed Figler under arrest for arson, and when he put Figler in the rear seat of the squad vehicle, the deputy could detect an odor of intoxicants. When the deputy asked Figler how much he had to drink, Figler said “a couple of shots.”
When the deputy went to speak with Figler’s wife, Police Chief Lamkin informed the deputy Figler had not called her but had posted the fire on Facebook. Figler’s wife said her daughter had called her and asked what was going on at the house. Figler’s wife said she could not believe it was happening, but she did not seem surprised, according to the complaint.
The deputy asked Figler’s wife about the dogs, and she mentioned the dog in the camper and said, “he is mean; he is pretty aggressive especially if he does not know who you are. There is no way a stranger could have went into the garage to start a fire,” the complaint states.
Police Chief Lamkin asked Figler’s wife if she could check the dog to see if he smelled like smoke. “Due to the dog’s aggressiveness, neither myself or Chief Lamkin felt it was safe for us to attempt to do so.” Figler’s wife agreed, and when she returned, she said the dog did not smell like smoke. While Figler’s wife was checking on the dog, Police Chief Lamkin informed the deputy fire personnel said it appeared an accelerant had been used on the fire, according to the complaint.
When the deputy accompanied Figler’s wife into the garage, he noticed a can of campfire fluid with a hole punched in it and placed on a shelf, the complaint states.
Figler’s phone was in the garage, and when Figler’s wife checked the phone, the contact page was for the renter’s insurance agent. She looked through the phone and noticed after the call to 911, Figler had called the insurance agent. A text message from the landlord also was on the phone stating that she wished to go into the garage. Figler told her he had changed the locks. Her contact to Figler was approximately 15 minutes prior to the 911 call about the fire, according to the complaint.
At the time of the May 19 preliminary hearing, Figler remained in custody at the Dunn County jail on a $5,000 cash bail.
Another court hearing is set for June 29, and a trial is on the court calendar in August.