A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for a $250,000 fire that is suspected of being a hate crime.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for a $250,000 fire that is suspected of being a hate crime.

At 5:24 a.m. on Jan. 16, a fire was reported at a home at 4907 Britton Farms Drive. The Norwich Township Fire Department responded, and the fire was contained at 5:47 a.m. The Hilliard Police Department also responded because the origin of the fire seemed suspicious. Police said the blaze caused $250,000 in property damages.

On Jan. 18, the Norwich Township Fire Department and Hilliard police determined that the fire had been intentionally set.

The house was once occupied by Salah Soltan, but is now the home of his 24-year-old son, Mohamed, authorities said.

The younger Soltan and a friend escaped the fire without injury.

The elder Soltan, who now lives abroad, is a native of Egypt and formerly was a professor at Cairo University and president of Islamic American University in suburban Detroit.

Some conservative critics have accused Soltan of being sympathetic to terrorist causes. He has said while he supports Palestinian rights, he condemns terrorism as a violation of Islamic law.

The house was painted with anti-Arab and anti-Islamic slurs a couple of months ago, authorities said.

Jennifer Nimer, Columbus legal director of the Ohio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said an anti-Muslim slur was written in permanent marker on the garage door at the end of November. In addition, a car at the residence was scratched with a similar slur in 2009.

In both instances, the slurs said "(expletive) Arabs Go Home."

"It's pretty disturbing," Nimer said of the incidents.

The Ohio chapter of CAIR has called on the FBI to assist in the investigation of the fire.

Hilliard Police Chief Doug Francis said the incident is being taken seriously.

"A hate crime is one of the most personal crimes you can have, because you're a victim of who you are," Francis said. "It doesn't have anything to do with circumstances or vulnerability, or so many things that make people victims of crime. They frighten and intimidate people, and that's why we take it seriously."

According to the Ohio Revised Code, there are specific crimes a person has to be charged with first - such as menacing or criminal damaging - before he or she can be charged with ethnic intimidation.

The Blue Ribbon Arson Committee, a statewide organization of police, firefighters and insurance industry representatives brought together to combat arson, posted a sign on the home listing a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fire.

Since 1978, the committee has issued 459 awards for $500,600, solving at least 542 fires, according to its website.

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call Hilliard police at (614) 334-2317 or the FBI at (614) 224-1183.

Randy Ludlow of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.