Was it ar­son?

Search war­rant says spread of fire on Broad­way is ‘sus­pi­cious’

The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH) - - FRONT PAGE - By Richard Pay­erchin rpay­erchin@morningjournal.com @MJ_Jour­nalRick on Twit­ter

The rapid spread of fire in­side of 700 Broad­way in Lo­rain, could be a sign of sus­pected ar­son be­cause of three lo­ca­tions where the blaze was started, ac­cord­ing to a search war­rant af­fi­davit filed in Lo­rain County Com­mon Pleas Court.

Mean­while, city of­fi­cials said thanks to a lo­cal cou­ple who showed hero­ism and com­pas­sion at the scene of the blaze.

The build­ing at 700 Broad­way, known as the This­tle Block or the This­tle Build­ing, was gut­ted when a fire broke out early hours Aug. 6.

Res­i­dents es­caped, but the brick build­ing was dam­aged be­yond re­pair and has been knocked down.

The Lo­rain Fire Depart­ment has not named a sus­pected cause, which re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

How­ever, the Lo­rain Po­lice Depart­ment ob­tained a search war­rant to look for ev­i­dence of pos­si­ble “ar­son and crim­i­nal dam­ag­ing,” ac­cord­ing to the war­rant.

The war­rant does not state the fire was set in­ten­tion­ally, but it out­lines rea­sons why re­spond­ing fire­fight­ers be­came sus­pi­cious about the blaze.

The three-story build­ing was oc­cu­pied by nine ten­ants on the first floor and two on the sec­ond floor, ac­cord­ing to the search war­rant.

When fire broke out, seven of the nine first-floor res­i­dents, and both of the sec­ond-floor res­i­dents, were there.

“Mul­ti­ple ten­ants on the first floor no­ticed the fire,” said a po­lice af­fi­davit filed with the search war­rant. “The ten­ants on the sec­ond floor saw smoke.

“When fire­fight­ers ar­rived, they saw fire vis­i­ble on first floor, on the south side of the sec­ond floor and on the west side of the third floor, which in­di­cated that there were three dif­fer­ent sources of the fire.”

The fire ap­pears to be sus­pi­cious, the search war­rant con­tin­ued, “be­cause there is no ex­pla­na­tion how the fire started in three sep­a­rate lo­ca­tions and spread so rapidly in the short amount of time,” the search war­rant con­tin­ued.

An ev­i­dence in­ven­tory sheet filed with the war­rant listed “fire de­bris” from three lo­ca­tions of the build­ing, col­lected by In­ves­ti­ga­tor Jeff Koehn of the Ohio Divi­sion of the State Fire Mar­shal.

All ev­i­dence was sub­mit­ted to the state fire mar­shal’s foren­sic lab for anal­y­sis.

It was un­clear when there could be a de­ter­mi­na­tion on the cause of the fire.

Com­mon Pleas Judge Mark Betleski signed the war­rant Aug. 9, a day af­ter the build­ing was se­cured.

Koehn’s ev­i­dence sheet was dated Aug. 24, and the search war­rant re­turn was filed at the court­house Sept. 7.

Mean­while, Lo­rain City Coun­cil and the city ad­min­is­tra­tion this month said thank you to a cou­ple who alerted fire­fight­ers about the blaze and helped keep the build­ing ten­ants safe.

Lo­rain res­i­dents Sharon and Pat Salkiewicz re­ceived a city res­o­lu­tion com­mend­ing their quick ac­tions early the morn­ing of Aug. 6.

Pat Salkiewicz at­tempted to get into the build­ing to as­sist a woman scream­ing from a sec­ond floor win­dow.

He could not enter due to the flames, but Sharon Salkiewicz re­mained in the smoke-filled street, calm­ing the woman who was wor­ried about her pet, and urg­ing her to re­main there un­til help ar­rived.

“This ac­tion ex­pe­dited the res­cue ef­forts for the fire­fight­ers, who ar­rived on the scene and took con­trol,” the res­o­lu­tion said.

Fire­fight­ers used lad­ders to res­cue two res­i­dents from the burning build­ing just as the roof col­lapsed.

“When fire­fight­ers ar­rived, they saw fire vis­i­ble on first floor, on the south side of the sec­ond floor and on the west side of the third floor, which in­di­cated that there were three dif­fer­ent sources of the fire.”

— A po­lice af­fi­davit filed with the search war­rant.

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