Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates on April 18 said he expected to file charges “within the week” in connection with a two-alarm arson fire in December that destroyed buildings at an abandoned lumberyard at 45 E. Waterloo St., Canal Winchester.
Bates would not comment on how the fire was started. He also would not identify the number of suspects likely to be charged or say if they are residents of Canal Winchester.
He said the details of the arson case are not being released because it is still an ongoing criminal investigation involving personnel from the Madison Township Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office.
“The investigation has resulted in the identification of suspects,” he said. “Charges are being prepared at this time and are expected to be filed with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office within the week.”
Approximately 100 firefighters from Madison, Bloom and Violet townships and Columbus responded to the fire, managing to contain it within two hours, Bates said.
“I can’t say enough about the job the guys did,” he said. “When you look at the amount of fire and how intense it burned – well, the fact that none of the neighboring buildings had damage is just amazing.”
Canal Winchester resident Patrick Shea was in contract to purchase the property from The Guernsey Bank and had hoped to renovate the buildings for mixed-use occupancy.
“The buildings the fire occurred in are a total loss, so because of a public safety concern, we had to take action to make the site safe, which meant demolishing them,” Bates said.
Since the fire, he said, the site has been secured with fencing, and debris from the fire has been cleared. However, the final demolition is expected to occur by the week of April 22 or fines could be levied against Shea and his partners until the demolition is completed.