SALEM - A fire in a vacant downtown building early Tuesday has been termed suspicious and intentional, with gasoline listed on a Salem Fire Department report as the type of material first ignited.
When asked if it was arson, Capt. Scott Mason said the fire at 229 E. State St. was suspicious in nature and they found evidence which he said he could not elaborate on further. The state fire marshal's office is investigating, along with city firefighters and police.
"There has not been electricity in the building since 2006," he said.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury at the scene when he and a fellow firefighter fell down dilapidated stairs in the two-story structure. No immediate medical treatment was required.
A problem was first reported at 2:08 a.m. when a city police officer on patrol saw smoke coming from the building and notified firefighters. The whole department was called in when the four firefighters on duty saw smoke showing. Doors to the building and an upstairs apartment, along with doors to the empty Rock City Tavern and an upstairs apartment and the empty Old Hitching Post were all forced open, with smoke showing from the building at 229 E. State St., in the upstairs apartment at 229 1/2 E. State St. and the Rock City Tavern at 241 E. State St.
Firefighters found no fire at first, with moderate smoke on the first floor of the building and heavy smoke on the second floor. The fire was discovered in a first floor rear storage room and extinguished, with the area overhauled and fire extension extinguished. The Rock City building and Old Hitching Post building were both searched with no fire found.
Ohio Edison shut off power to the Rock City building. The Old Hitching Post building had not had electricity since July 2011.
The fire was under control and out before 3 a.m., but firefighters remained on the scene until 8:10 a.m., checking for more fire extension, overhauling and searching for evidence to determine the cause. The state fire marshal's office was notified and an investigator arrived on the scene at 4:28 a.m. Perry Township firefighters provided mutual aid. Lyle Printing also sustained some smoke odor.
Mason said Northern Hancock Bank & Trust owned the building, which was insured. Damages were estimated at $10,000.
The report listed the cause of ignition as intentional and said the area of origin as the storage room area and first item ignited the interior ceiling cover or finish. Heavy debris was found in the building.
The state fire marshal's office was contacted, but no further information was available Tuesday night.
Anyone with information about the fire should contact the city fire department or police department.