No Evidence of Arson Yet in Mercantile Building Fire - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/10/02 - Tyler

No Evidence of Arson Yet in Mercantile Building Fire

  With the smoke cleared at Tyler's Mercantile Building Tyler Fire investigators and the Arson Task Force could see they had a potentially dangerous investigation on their hands.

"We're having to go through pretty slowly," says Tyler Fire Investigator Laura Mason.

That's partly because one portion of the roof was collapsed and the other side buckled, barely hanging on.

"This is a very long process partially because as we have started cleaning out debris on the bottom floor and we realized we have holes burned through the floor in places," says Mason.

So the first order of business for fire investigators Wednesday was coming up with a safe game plan to determine the fire's origin and rule out arson with the help of ATF agents.

"We'll run a canine, we'll have a canine here in about an hour to determine accelerants," says Clay Alexander, ATF.

Tuesday night firefighters weren't just dealing with 30-foot flames shooting into the night sky, they also had to prevent the fire from spreading to the front half of the building and the Tyler Candle Company.  Plus a homeless man seen leaving the burning abandoned building informed firefighters another man ID'd as 32-year-old John Richard Kirkpatrick could be trapped inside.

"We're in the process right now of getting down to the area of the mattress and where that second floor was because everything has caved in on itself and we'll take all that debris out," says Alexander.

As fire investigators search clues as to what started this fire, they have determined that it began on the second floor in the back part of this abandoned building.

"The main thing here is to rule out all accidental causes first and the reason the team is out here not because we specifically expect arson, but for the resources," says Mason.

A day long search of the mostly burned Mercantile building turned up no evidence of arson.  The Arson Task Force will continue the investigation once the building is demolished for safety reasons.

 

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