Authorities here were investigating this morning a suspected arson fire which destroyed the former Fink and Co. building in downtown Hope on Tuesday night.
Authorities here were investigating this morning a suspected arson fire which destroyed the former Fink and Co. building in downtown Hope on Tuesday night. Fire units from the main fire station of the Hope Fire Department were literally around the corner from the 102 S. Hazel St. fire scene and had the building surrounded within minutes about 7 p.m. Tuesday night. Flames from the fire broke through at the southeast corner of the building initially and lit the skies in the downtown business district, as Hope Police Department officers cordoned off a four-block area around the fire scene and diverted traffic. Hundreds of small-paned windows which encircled the building were shattered, either from the heat of the fire or firefighters blasting water into the interior with high-intensity hoses, and the fire vented itself through the openings, allowing firefighters to knock most of the blaze back into the building. However, a substantial portion of the south wall to the building later collapsed, but Hope Fire Chief Dale Glanton said there were no injuries as a result of the fire. Glanton said this morning that the fire is considered an arson. “The only thing we know at this time is that there were no utilities connected to the building; no electricity, no gas,” he said. “It appears to have started about the middle of the structure. There was a lot of cardboard, paper, old puzzle pieces, so, there was plenty of fuel for it. “It looks like it was set,” Glanton said. “It looks like it was set in the middle of the structure. We still have some roof and stuff still attached on the north side of the building; so, it's basically about halfway through the south side is all collapsed. And, that's what we're looking at.” The building had been used for a number of years by Fink and Co. as its manufacturing facility for jigsaw puzzles, which it sold worldwide. The structure had originally been constructed in the 1940s to house the Shanhouse Co. clothing manufacturing business, but it had been vacant for several years after Fink and Co. discontinued operations, and the building remained in an estate. Glanton said that Hope Police Department investigators have been in contact with the Fink family, and that a determination is expected to be made today as to what will be done with the remaining structure. “We do have some structural damage on some of the corners on the outsides of the walls, and we need to talk to him to see what he wants to do about it,” Glanton said. He said a natural gas main on the Hazel Street side of the building was damaged after part of the structure collapsed Tuesday night, causing a service riser to rupture and burn. Glanton said CenterPoint Energy crews dug out the line and cut the service late Tuesday night. “They had to dig the lines up and find a place to cut the gas off,” he said. Glanton said no-one was injured as a result of the rupture. Glanton said he could not determine, at this point, whether the fire might be connected with a Sept. 25, 2012, arson fire at the former Bruner-Ivory Handle Mill, located on North Hazel Street. “We really don't know; it's a possibility, I guess, but it has been quite a while between the Bruner-Ivory fire and this fire,” he said. Glanton said there was no fire damage to any neighboring businesses or other buildings. “We kept it contained to this building,” he said.