Thursday, December 14th, 2006
By Margie Wuebker
Arson ruled as cause of Coldwater house fire
Cause of Minster house fire is still under study
A $5,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the apprehension of the person or persons involved in an arson fire that destroyed a Coldwater-area home in November.
Meanwhile, the investigation into a suspicious fire that destroyed a brick farmhouse near Minster on Tuesday night is continuing.
In both cases, the homes were vacant at the time without any kind of utility service.
Southwest Mercer Fire Chief Kim Day posted a reward sign near the rubble of a double-wide modular home at 5634 Rauh Road, between Coldwater and Fort Recovery. The property, which had been sold recently at sheriff's sale, is owned by Citi Financial.
Firefighters responded to the location at 10:02 p.m. Nov. 19 after a passerby spotted flames. They remained on the scene approximately two hours and prevented flames from spreading to a detached garage.
"The place was fully engulfed when we arrived on the scene," Day told The Daily Standard. "All we could do was keep the flames from spreading."
Dennis Cupp, an investigator with the Ohio Fire Marshal's Office, came to the scene the following day. He conferred with fire department officials after checking through the debris.
"There were no utilities and no gas," Day said. "When you eliminate all possibilities that leaves only one thing."
Shane Cartmill, public information officer for the fire marshal's office, agreed the lack of utilities and other factors pointed to a case of arson leading Ohio's Blue Ribbon Arson Committee to post the award. He declined to elaborate on the investigator's report.
"We encourage the public to call if they observed something suspicious that night or heard suspicious comments about the fire," Cartmill said. "You never know what bit of information might tip off investigators and lead to an arrest."
Calls can be placed to the Mercer County Sheriff's Office at 419-586-7724.
Day estimated the dollar loss at $40,000. The finance company reportedly carried insurance on the home.
Minster Fire Chief Dale Dues has turned the investigation into Tuesday's fire over to the Shelby County Sheriff's Office.
Firefighters responded to the vacant two-story farmhouse at 05876 state Route 119, Minster, after a passer-by spotted flames around 2:10 p.m. and summoned help. The scene is approximately three miles east of the Auglaize County village.
Requests for mutual aid brought manpower and tankers from neighboring New Bremen, Fort Loramie, Kettlersville-Van Buren and Anna fire departments.
Tankers brought in water from two locations - Siegel's Bridge at Lake Loramie to the east of the blaze and a private pond to the west.
"The house was fully engulfed," Dues said. "Fortunately the wind was perfect (south to southeast) or the flames would have spread to a nearby garage and barn."
Dues said composition of the house complicated the job for firefighters.
"This was an old, well-built farmhouse with a brick exterior from ground level to peak," the fire chief added. "And then there was a center brick wall."
A crane was brought in to tear down the walls section by section so firefighters could douse flames. The last fire units left the scene at 9:15 p.m. All that remained was a large pile of rubble that continued to smoke Wednesday afternoon.
The vacant house, owned by Barb Winner of Osgood, was to be demolished although a date had not been set. Recent salvage efforts to save old woodwork in the former rental property had been completed, according to Dues.
The Minster department's investigation unit, headed by 25-year veteran Jim Harting, has labeled the blaze as suspicious.
"There was no gas or electric," Dues said. "That eliminates a lot of likely causes."
The house had no dollar value given its impending demolition and the owner reportedly canceled insurance coverage.
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