Warehouse fire was arson

By Mike Heine/The Week

(Published Sept. 19, 2006, 1:11 p.m.)

Investigators are looking for leads in the Sept. 5 fire at a vacant building on Centralia Street in Elkhorn.

An empty warehouse burned to the ground because of an arsonist, said arson investigator David Fladten.

Authorities are looking for anyone who may have witnessed any vehicles or individuals on or near the warehouse property the morning of Sept. 5 or in the days or weeks before the fire.

Secondly, police are seeking a white, late - model Volvo station wagon - possibly model XC70 or XC90 - that was seen leaving the warehouse property shortly before the fire was reported.

Charred remnants of the warehouse were sent to the Wisconsin Crime Lab for analysis. It is still undetermined if an accelerant was used to set the building ablaze.

The warehouse, owned by Cooperative Plus, Inc., of Elkhorn, was fully engulfed when the first firefighters arrived on scene. The roof collapsed and the facility was considered a total loss.

"We are exploring all of the motives to assist us in identifying suspects," Fladten said, including financial, vandalism, gang related or a "neighborhood clean-up" motive.

One wall of the warehouse suspiciously caught fire on July 23 this year. A neighboring building burned to the ground in July 2005 and damaged the warehouse. The cause of that fire was undetermined.

CPI was restoring the building and had been in the process of trying to sell it to an unnamed Milwaukee businessman, CPI President Pat Vogel. The new business would have brought several jobs to the area and been beneficial to the city, Vogel said.

The warehouse had frequently been the target of vandalism, Vogel said. Police are looking into graffiti artists as possible suspects, Fladten said.

To report information:

Anyone with information about the suspicious Sept. 5 blaze at 311 Centralia St. is asked to call the Elkhorn Police Department at (262) 723-2210. To report information anonymously, contact the Wisconsin Arson Insurance Counsel at (800) 362-3005 or Walworth County Crime Stoppers at (800) 24-CRIME. Rewards may be available for information that leads to an arrest.




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