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Authorities look for arsonist
Franklin Township Fire Chief Richard Howard advised trustees at the Feb. 19 township meeting that the Division of State Fire Marshal's Fire and Explosion Investigation Bureau has declared the cause of the Jan. 26 two-alarm fire at Food Max grocery store arson.
Investigators say any other accidental causes are now ruled out and it appears the fire was deliberately set. A news release from the fire marshal's office states because this incident is part of an ongoing investigation and the fire origins resulted from a criminal act, any vital evidence related to the incident is not available for release to the public.
"Investigators have solid leads, but believe the public may be able to provide additional details about this fire," said State Fire Marshal Michael Bell. "We know someone in the community has more information about this fire and we want to hear from them."
Howard said the loss to the property and the contents was estimated at $750,000 for the Food Max fire alone. While none of the surrounding homes or businesses were damaged, the fire did take some time to put out.
"We started at 9:19 p.m. and we were done with the fire at 7 a.m. the next day," said Howard.
Howard said this fire is one of eight other fires the township has had cause to do an investigation on since Jan. 26, including a fatal fire on Plainview Road that is still under investigation.
"As far as we can tell, none of them are connected. It's just a bad set-up, we just keep getting hit, due to weather," said Howard. "It goes in spurts. You can go for long periods of time without anything. It's one of those coincidental things."
None of the other fires, including the fatal fire, were caused by arson, according to Howard, and the only fires still under investigation are the fatal fire on Plainview and the arson at Food Max.
"Most fatal and arson fires are still under investigation until they're finalized," said Howard.
Howard said the township calls in the fire marshal in certain fire situations.
"We always call the state fire marshal when we have a fatal, because they have a little more expertise in dealing with that kind of a situation. Most townships don't. And right now they got some stuff they're bringing back from the labs that they can make sure they can rule out other causes," said Howard
The state fire marshal posted a Blue Ribbon Arson Reward to the public, offering $5,000 for information leading to the identity of the parties responsible for the fire. Those with information may contact the state fire marshal at (800) 589-2728 or the Franklin County Sheriff's Office at 462-6731 or call Franklin Township and ask for the fire prevention/investigation officer at 279-1537.
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