March 24, 2013

Bingham fires late Saturday subjects of arson investigation

Town garage, Main Street ice cream shop heavily damaged; investigator believes blazes set by same person

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

BINGHAM — The town garage and an ice cream shop on Main Street were both set on fire during a two-hour period Saturday night, a state fire investigation supervisor said.

click image to enlarge

Arthur Kennedy and his friend, Ceri Zeolla, on Sunday look over the burned remains of the Bingham town garage and equipment that was destroyed by fire late Saturday evening. Kennedy said he plows for the town and two of his own plow trucks and a loader were damaged. Kennedy said he believes the fire was intentionally set.

Staff photo by David Leaming

click image to enlarge

People gather outside the gutted Here's The Scoop ice cream shop, beside the Riverside Inn in Bingham ,on Sunday. Fire heavily damaged the interior of the building late Saturday.

Staff photo by David Leaming

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No one was hurt in either blaze.

Because the fires were started within two hours of each other, investigators think they were started by the same person, said Sgt. Joel Davis, of the State Fire Marshal's Office.

"It was more than coincidence, we think," he said.

Davis said four fire investigators worked throughout the night to rule out accidental causes for the fires and have established conclusively that they were the work of an arsonist.

The town garage, on Owens Street, was destroyed, as were most of the town's public works vehicles. Davis said that total damages probably would be around $500,000.

A tractor, a sewage tank truck, a trailer, a plow truck and a bucket loader were destroyed. A second plow truck parked outside the building was damaged, but firefighters were able to save part of it by dousing it with foam and water to protect it from the flames.

The plow trucks and bucket loader are worth about $100,000, estimated the owner, 57-year-old Arthur Kennedy of Pleasant Ridge, whose company, Kennedy Construction, has done the town's plowing for the past six years.

The two trucks were outside the garage, but parked close so that engine heaters could be plugged into outlets inside the building, he said.

The ice cream shop, Here's the Scoop, is owned by Scott and Vicki Stanchfield, who work and live next door at the Riverside Inn. The shop's interior was damaged extensively, according to Vicki Stanchfield.

She said the couple was chatting and watching television with their son and daughter-in-law shortly before 9 p.m. when they noticed the ice cream shop was on fire.

"There were flames shooting out of the windows," she said. Their son used a fire extinguisher to battle the flames from outside until the Fire Department arrived.

Fire Chief Scott Laweryson said 18 firefighters went to the town garage about 10:30 p.m. after a neighbor noticed it was on fire and called 911.

He said the vehicles and equipment in the four-bay garage were "pretty much beyond the point of recognition."

Kennedy said he could continue to provide plowing services for most weather conditions by using the company's pickup trucks.

Davis said the investigators are pursuing leads and conducting interviews.

"We could make an arrest in an hour; it could be a week," he said.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

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