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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

Arson is ruled as cause of Wauseon fire


WAUSEON - Fire investigators said yesterday a house fire last week was set intentionally, but they won't say whether it is related to nine arsons in this rural Fulton County community.

“It was forced entry and a fire was set. The origination was undetermined,'' Wauseon Police Detective Richard Bingham said.

In little more than one year, more than 20 arsons have occurred in Fulton and Henry counties, including one that destroyed millions of lollipops in a warehouse. In this farming community of 7,000, 10 have been classified as arson.

The latest fire, which was set Jan. 30 at 1018 Cherokee Drive, caused about $70,000 damage, primarily from smoke damage, said Sally Wagner of the State Fire Marshal's Office, which is investigating the 10 fires. No one was injured in the morning blaze.

Ms. Wagner declined to say whether this arson was similar in nature to others in the area. “Of course investigators are aware when there are other fires in the area, and at times they cross-reference them in the course of a normal investigation,'' she said.

Wauseon Police Chief Jim Gamber and Detective Bingham said their agencies are aiding the fire marshal's investigation but would say little about details of the Jan. 30 fire.

The arsons began Sept. 21, 2000, at Saint Caspar Church. Fires have been set at Emmaus Lutheran, First Baptist, and Haven Heights churches. On Oct. 3, 2001, a fire was set at Burr Middle School. Other fires ruled arson were at an office, a restaurant, and three residences. No one was injured in the fires.

In the area, Archbold has recorded two fires set within two days. Delta has reported one arson. Several fires have been set in Henry County including one in which a woman died.

Chief Gamber had said the nine other blazes do not appear to have been set by a professional. “He doesn't use accelerants. He apparently just uses a disposal lighter and paper and normally starts the fires in a closet, where nobody sees them until too late,'' he said.

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