Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Colerain on alert

Four arson fires in three days do $200,000 damage; authorities have no suspects

By David Eck
Enquirer staff writer

COLERAIN TOWNSHIP - A string of four arsons in three days has police officers and firefighters in the southern part of this township on guard, and has prompted a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the fire-starter.

The series of fires that began early Friday has caused more than $200,000 in damage. Two firefighters were slightly hurt in one blaze.

Owners Robert and Annette Schneider look over what remains of their barn in the 4800 block of Bluemeadow Lane in Colerain Township Monday afternoon.
(Enquirer photo/GLENN HARTONG)
None of the four buildings burned was a home. No one was inside any of the buildings when the fires were set, officials said.

The four buildings are within a mile of each other, said Colerain Township Fire Capt. Hollis Love. The most recent fire occurred in a detached garage at Garden Park Unity Church, 3581 W. Galbraith Road, about 9:38 p.m. on Sunday.

A Hamilton County sheriff's deputy saw the fire, which damaged the garage and destroyed several household items. The loss was about $50,000.

The other fires include: a barn at 4848 Blue Meadow Lane destroyed early Friday worth $30,000; an office building under construction at 3630 W. Galbraith Road late Friday caused about $10,000 in damage; and a gift shop at the Farbach-Werner Nature Preserve on Poole Road Saturday that caused about $125,000 damage.

"All of them are arson," Love said. "All of them are set fires."

Love said investigators ruled out accidental or mechanical ignition causes. The fires remain under investigation, but officials would not disclose details other than to say there are similarities in the blazes. No suspects have been identified, Love said.

The Rev. Alden Studebaker, minister at Garden Park Unity Church, said he was alerted to the fire at the church by a church member.

He was relieved to learn that the sanctuary and church offices were safe, and that the garage can likely be rebuilt.

"I'm just grateful no one was injured," he said. "If you're going to have a fire at your church, this is the kind to have."

Robert Schneider, who owned the barn destroyed in the first fire, said residents in the area may form a neighborhood watch group because of the fires.

"It's kind of sad that they can't find something constructive to do," Schneider said of the arsonist. "I'm almost shocked. Destruction of property is a pretty serious thing."

Colerain officials would not detail what type of extra security is planned for the area, but residents are asked to report anything suspicious.

"There is a little bit of tenseness in the community," Studebaker said. "It's put people a little bit on edge."

Colerain Township arsons

Friday: 4848 Blue Meadow Lane. Barn. 12:40 a.m.

Friday: 3630 W. Galbraith Road. Office building under construction. 11 p.m.

Saturday: 3455 Poole Road. Farbach Werner Park Nature Preserve gift shop. 10:40 p.m.

Sunday: 3381 W. Galbraith Road. Garage at Garden Park Unity Church. 9:38 p.m.

$5,000 reward offered

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 352-3040. A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.


E-mail daveck@fuse.net

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