Scarcely two weeks after vandals attacked the Northside Community Park Community Center and caused hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in damage to the interior and furnishings, Hope police were investigating a predawn fire that seriously damaged the building Tuesday.
Scarcely two weeks after vandals attacked the Northside Community Park Community Center and caused hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in damage to the interior and furnishings, Hope police were investigating a predawn fire that seriously damaged the building Tuesday. Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton said the investigation into the origins of the fire were turned over to the Hope Police Department as soon as firefighters left the scene about 4 a.m. today. “The Hope Police Department is investigating it as an arson,” Glanton said. “It's pretty extensive damage to the front of the building because that's where the kitchen was. It got a lot of smoke damage and back into the recreation area it did quite a bit of damage.” He said the fire is believed to have been set in the kitchen area on the north side of the building. Glanton said a nearby resident called 911 to report the blaze about 1:51 a.m. He said fire units were on the scene until shortly after 4 a.m. Hope Police Chief J. R. Wilson said the HPD is working from forensic evidence found at the scene, but no suspects had been identified at press time Tuesday. “Subsequent investigation found that an unknown person or persons threw a rock through the side glass door of the center, entered and made forcible entry into the locked office area,” he said. “A television that was removed and placed outside the center behind an adjacent building was recovered.” Wilson said HPD investigators processed the scene for forensic evidence and are also asking residents of the northside area to notify police of anything suspicious seen in the vicinity Monday night or Tuesday morning by calling 870-722-2560, 2563, or 2558 during business hours. Hope City Manager Catherine Cook said this morning that no estimate of the damages has been made, but she fears extensive work will have to be done to restore the building. “It's damaged pretty extensively in the kitchen area, and there is water damage in the office,” Cook said. “The fire chief told me it looked like the fire might have gone up into the attic and some of the trusses may be damaged. “We will really have to check that out to make sure,” she said. “We may have to have an architect look at it.” Both Wilson and Cook said the fire showed no evidence of being gang-related. “I just hope they can find out who did it because it is a very nice building and it is used a lot by Hope residents,” she said. Video games were damaged or destroyed and the recreation area floor was flooded in vandalism at the center on Jan. 29. The office area was also vandalized and a glass door broken to gain access to the building, a water fountain torn from the wall, a pool table damaged, a community park banner was damaged, and office doors were damaged as were closet doors. No arrests have been made in that incident. The vandalism is part of a larger outbreak of incidents at both City parks, the Hope Soccer Park, and Hope Skate Park in recent weeks.