Hope Police Department investigators are dealing with a twist in the evidence which makes the mystery behind an alleged arson fire at the Bruner-Ivory Handle Mill that mirrors a fire at the same historic structure five years ago more puzzling.
Hope Police Department investigators are dealing with a twist in the evidence which makes the mystery behind an alleged arson fire at the Bruner-Ivory Handle Mill that mirrors a fire at the same historic structure five years ago more puzzling. HPD Assistant Chief Kim Tomlin said Tuesday the problem is not in what investigators have found in the Sept. 25, 2012, fire at the historic factory on North Laurel Street; but, rather in what they have not found... an ignition accelerant. “The crime lab did not find any ignitable material on the samples that were submitted,” Tomlin said. What that means, according to Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton, is there is no direct evidence of any substance which is typically used in arson fires to accelerate the burn of a fire once it is ignited. “There was some old mattresses and stuff in there; so, it could be that a homeless person was staying there,” Glanton said. “I figure somebody just picked up some scrap wood, or something; I don't know, if they were just trying to keep warm.” Tomlin said the fire remains under investigation as a suspicious fire. “We are still going to call it an arson because there was no electricity to the building,” she said. “Now, we don't know if someone got in there and started a fire to stay warm, or what happened. But, we are not going to call it an accident. Right now, it's an undetermined suspicious fire.” Glanton said he believes the fire was likely started the night before or early the morning of Sept. 25, 2012, before it got out of control and was discovered that afternoon. “Whoever was there didn't stay,” he said. “It's kind of hard to figure out at this point.” The University of Arkansas Southwest Research and Extension Center at Hope reported low temperatures for the night of Sept. 24, 2012, at 57 degrees, with a high of 78 degrees earlier that day. The high temperature for Sept. 25, 2012, was reported at 85 degrees. The building is currently owned by the Gordon Roy Tate family of Mobile, Ala. This is the second time the Bruner-Ivory mill has burned. A massive fire destroyed a large section of the older workspace on May 2, 2007. That fire was also considered an arson fire by then-Fire Chief Bo Watkins. Watkins said at the time that the fire was started in a small office. Then, as now, there was no electrical utility service to any part of the plant. Then, as now, the fire was set in the the older part of the complex. Then, as now, there was no accelerant used to produce a faster burn to the fire. Some of the oldest parts of the structure were saved by the HFD during the 2007 fire. According to a 2007 Hope Star account, David Satterwhite, the property manager at the time, said the more durable sections of the building were saved. That is the part of the complex that burned Sept. 25, 2012. At the time of the 2007 fire, the complex was owned by Link Holdings, Inc., of Tennessee, and was about to be sold. Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson has said that HPD investigative records show the building was not insured in 2007 and there were no utilities connected at the time of the 2007 fire. Wilson said the 2007 fire was set in the southwest corner of the building, in the center of the room.