‘Suspicious in nature’

The May 8 fire that destroyed a building at 100 Ruggles St. in the city of Dunkirk was likely caused by a human. That was the report from Fire Chief Keith Ahlstrom on Tuesday, who said the fire was investigated by both the city and county.

“We have our own fire investigators. Some of them are part of the county team, some of them are just getting into it,” he explained. “Small things we do by ourselves, sometimes on the big things like this we bring in some outside help. I don’t have the official report, but the report is going to say it was suspicious in nature.”

Ahlstrom said that due to the condition of the building investigators weren’t able to gain access to all areas of the building.

“They were able to gain enough access to make this determination based on there was no power to the building, there was no gas to the building,” he added.

While Ahlstrom said he likely wouldn’t have the official report until week’s end, he did have a supplemental report that stated “the fire is ruled to be undetermined with human involvement is the correct terminology,” he stated. “From the exterior of the building the area of origin was determined to be in the center of the wood frame structure.”

Asked if it was arson, the chief said somebody had to help the fire along. He added it was hard to prove arson unless somebody witnessed somebody going in and out of the building.

The first fire units on the scene the night of the fire found the building fully involved with fire extending from three sides of the building and already through the roof. The fire was under control in an hour, but crews stayed on the scene for three hours.

According to the city’s assessors office, Joseph A. Santiago of 16 Front St. in the city is the owner of the building which formerly housed the Community Sharing for Christmas program. It also was the home of the former Meister Construction Company. A permit for a roof replacement had also been issued before the fire, according to the building inspector’s office.

This was the third large fire in the city this year, joining houses at 128 Lincoln Ave. and 307 Eagle St. receiving damage.

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