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Published: Monday, 11/24/2008

Arson ruled cause of Bellevue plastics factory fire


BELLEVUE, Ohio State investigators announced Monday that arson is the suspected cause of the fire that damaged the Progress Plastics factory on Monroe Street.

Firefighters from Bellevue and several regional fire departments responded Sunday to the fire reported at 3:49 a.m., but they did not have the blaze under control until several hours later.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal s office and the Toledo field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, believe the blaze was intentionally set.

Authorities declined to be more specific about why they believe the fire is an arson, saying the fire remains under investigation.

But they are asking the public for help in finding the culprit or culprits.

"We are asking for the public s assistance and any information since this has been deemed a criminal act," said Kim Riddell, special agent and public information officer for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Columbus field office. "We would like any information, even if it seems insignificant."

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the state fire marshal investigations bureau at 1-800-589-2728.

Russ Panas, economic development director of the Bellevue Development Corp., confirmed last night that the Bellevue facility is closing.

He said it is his understanding that the plant, which manufactures plastic parts for washing machines, lost its contract with Whirlpool Corp.

Progress, he said, has been in business in Bellevue for 40 years, and the firm has a plant in Tiffin. "I am not sure what the plans are for Tiffin," he said.

The plant in Bellevue had about 50 workers. Its closing, he said, is a "sign of the times. The economy is taking bits and pieces." The closing was announced last week.

According to its Web site, Progress was founded in 1969 by Claude Young and Richard Krauss. The firm started in a small garage and expanded to two modern injection-molding facilities with more than 300 employees at plants in Bellevue and Tiffin.

In August, 1986, Progress opened an injection-molding operation in the former General Electric plant in Bellevue, according to the Web site.

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