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Two persons of interest sought in factory blaze |

Two persons of interest sought in factory blaze

“The investigation will continue in hopes that there will be a conclusion to this in the next few days,” he said.

Talbert didn’t want to give any more detail than that, saying interviews had been conducted and he’s notified the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Salem fire Chief Scott Mason regarding the status of the investigation. He said investigators worked last night and through the morning, adding that first responders, the fire department and the police did a great job at the scene.

During an interview at the fire site off of South Broadway Avenue and Euclid Wednesday afternoon, Mason said the state Fire Marshal investigator was talking to police detectives to rule out any suspicious activity. He said the fire was “still considered undetermined and under investigation at this point.”

All that’s left of the structure of the old dinnerware factory founded in 1898 were piles of bricks, twisted metal and contents stored by Church Budget, which included rolls of paper, empty ink barrells and empty glue containers, along with some old equipment. The Pidgeon family, which owns Church Budget, a manufacturer of church envelopes, owned the property and used the newer part of the building for storage. Salem China had shut down many years ago. The property was insured, but only for the contents.

“I don’t believe there was any electric service in the area of origin,” Mason said.

He said the point of origin for the fire was located in the eastern part of the building where there wasn’t much material stored. The fire was contained a little before midnight, but some firefighters remained on the scene all night hitting hot spots. The tanker shuttle remained in place until at least 2 a.m., with several Salem firefighters sent back to the station around 3:30 a.m. to get rested up. Six stayed at the scene.

John Monroe of Monroe Excavating in Greenford, who resides in Salem and previously volunteered as a Green Township firefighter, continued working at the site with an excavator and also used a hose to extinguish still smoldering hot spots he found while digging up areas in search of fire spots. He had come to the scene Tuesday afternoon with the excavator and helped knock down walls and move materials to reduce some of the hazards and allow firefighters greater access to pockets of fire.

The fire call came into the department at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday as smoke coming from the building. When firefighters arrived at the main entrance, they didn’t see much at first, then traveled up Euclid and saw that the back of the building was on fire. Before long, the building became a raging inferno throwing black smoke that could be seen for miles. Mason said water became an issue, clarifying Wednesday that the issue was more because of “the enormity of the fire. We needed so much water so quick,” he said.

Two tanker shuttles were put in place, with one to supply the Salem aerial ladder truck and one to supply the Canfield aerial ladder truck. Mason thought the water lines near the site were 4-inch lines but learned during a conversation with water department personnel that there was an 8-inch line feeding one of the hydrants near the site, which they did use.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency responded to the scene during the blaze and found nothing hazardous in the air, with Mason saying they described the smoke like a giant campfire. They responded again on Wednesday and still had no hazardous readings.

He urged people to stay away from the site, reminding that it’s private property and there was lots of sharp metal, nails and still unstable parts of the structure. He said some firefighters would be staying at the scene and checking on it, noting that the property was being watched.

“I’d like to thank the public for their support and all the businesses for the food and water, the excavator for all his help, the police department and service department for their help and all the area fire departments that assisted,” Mason said.

Greier is a reporter for the Salem News.

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