Monday, May 3, 2004

Bought for $350K, building
reportedly not insured

Arson suspected in large
Stearns & Foster complex

By William A. Weathers
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOCKLAND - While investigators continued to search Sunday for the cause of the massive four-alarm fire at the former Stearns & Foster mattress factory, a relative of one of the new owners of the complex said the property was not insured.

The owners of the property, bought at auction about three months ago for $350,000, were in the early planning stage for its development, Tom Bemmes said Sunday.

"The property was newly acquired and, unfortunately, there's no insurance on any of the buildings,'' said Bemmes, brother of Bonnie Rack, one of the owners of Cincinnati-based B.A.D. Properties.

"The owners are very thankful that no one was seriously injured in the fire,'' Bemmes said.

The owners, he said, would like to convey their thanks to all firefighters, police officers, and Red Cross and Salvation Army personnel and volunteers who responded to the scene.

"The owners and their families are devastated by the losses caused by this tragedy,'' Bemmes said.

Investigators for the Hamilton County Arson Task Force and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continued their work Sunday.

"It's definitely suspicious'' Lockland Fire Chief Bill Welshans said of the blaze, adding that there are indications "that it's possible arson." He did not elaborate.

Firefighters remained on the scene Sunday to extinguish smoldering hot spots.

"There are a couple of small fires inside that they're trying to put out now,'' Lockland Police Officer Kathy Burton said Sunday afternoon.

Firefighters from Springdale, Sycamore Township and Miami Township were assisting their Lockland counterparts at the scene Sunday.

More than 130 firefighters and at least 27 fire departments from three counties helped battle the blaze that started about 9 a.m. Saturday in the 200 block of Shepherd Lane.

Liz Oakes contributed. E-mail

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