Authorizes are continuing to investigate two fires that occurred in Canal Winchester in the past month.
One -- a Nov. 30 blaze at a residence on Stretton Place -- has been ruled arson, according to Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates.
Two cars at the residence of Holly and Dustin Bower, 6404 Stretton Place, were set ablaze by an arsonist, and threatening graffiti was sprayed on the garage, Bates said. The fire quickly spread to the home. The couple and their young daughter were able to escape unharmed.
The Bowers family made the best of a bad situation by painting over the graffiti with a wintery, Christmas-themed mural. Dustin Bower told WBNS 10TV News that he did not want the crime to put a damper on his family's holiday.
The second fire, a two-alarm blaze, ripped through the old Davis Paints site at 45 E. Waterloo St. on Dec. 8. Nearly 100 firefighters from Madison Township, Bloom Township, Columbus and Violet Township responded to the fire. No injuries were reported, but the buildings were determined to be a total loss, according to Bates.
"We've ruled that the Stretton Place fire is arson and that investigation is continuing, but I can't comment on whether or not we have any persons of interest at this time," he said. "The lumberyard fire at the old Davis Paint site is still under investigation. We don't have anything to indicate that the two are related."
Bates said previously the Waterloo Street fire was considered suspicious because utilities such as electricity have been cut off from the location for years, ruling out the possibility that the blaze originated from errant wiring or leaking pipes.
Sgt. Jared Collins of the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office said the joint investigation into the fires is a standard process among his agency, Madison Township and the state.
"Obviously, this has gone far beyond just a patrol-level investigation and is with our detectives," Collins said. "It is an active, joint investigation and we have detectives that are used to working with fire investigators and are trained for this. It's unfortunate that it's something they have to be trained in, but it happens a few times a year, so we have to be able to respond."
Collins said late last week the sheriff's office was unable to provide specific details about the investigations, other than to say both are continuing.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said the city is working with Guernsey Bank, the current owner of the Davis Paints property, to secure the site and determine the best course of action moving forward.
"The biggest issue we have is securing the site," he said. "We don't want other people in there because of the debris and structural damage. As of right now, the fire department still has control of the site and there won't be any cleanup until after they're done with that part of the investigation."
Haire said a city contractor demolished some of the buildings on the site already as a precautionary measure. He said Guernsey Bank will be required to reimburse the city for those expenses.
The remaining buildings may also need to be demolished, based on recommendations from the fire department and the owner's insurance company, Haire said.
"The bank has already hired people to start cleaning up what they can, such as making the sidewalk passable and installing fencing to secure the site," he said. "But it'll be up to the fire department when the rest of that work can be completed."