Arson Ruled Out as Cause of Major Fire
The large, three alarm fire in Millcreek on June 16, which burned the Cottonwood Richmond apartments under construction at the corner of 1300 E and Villa Vista Ave, was not caused by arson, according to the Unified Fire Authority.
Investigation of the incident involved 60 officers from the UFA, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and several local partner agencies.
Investigators conducted an exhaustive chemical analysis of the products of the fire, used sniffer dogs and reviewed hundreds of surveillance and cell phone videos. They ultimately ruled out the possibility of arson using an accelerant. The cause will officially be categorized as undetermined, although there were several normal construction activities on the site that day which could have ignited the fire. For civil liability reasons, UFA will not attempt to make an attribution to any of them.
It was fortunate that no one was seriously injured. Now it is a relief to know that arson was not the cause of this fire. The site has been surrendered back to the property owner, which intends to evaluate the concrete foundation and to recommence construction. Some construction on the eastern portion of the project as been approved to recommence already and the owner estimates that the fire will cause a six-month delay to completion of the project.
Eleven neighboring businesses were displaced by the fire. Proceeds from the “Go Fund Me” account that was established by a private party were distributed, and some of the businesses (who had insurance) have donated their shares back to the others. The city has been and continues to find resources (from the state and private parties) with which to assist these businesses and, hopefully, to enable them to relocate in Millcreek.