Officials have put up an $11,000 reward for information in connection with an arson fire that burned a Long Neck apartment building in November.
“It is highly likely someone set it, whether purposely or by accident,” said Tom Tipton, president and chief operating officer for Ocean Atlantic, management company for the Carillon Woods apartment building that burned Nov. 8.
The Delaware State Fire Marshal ruled the fire arson on Nov. 29 and continues to investigate. Tipton said there is no new information on the fire that caused $1.5 million in damage, destroying a four-story building under construction that was going to house 30 units. No one was injured in the fire.
Tipton said investigators had ruled out a lightning strike or electrical malfunction before determining the fire was arson.
“Even if someone was passing by who dropped a cigarette, it would be considered arson because they were trespassing,” Tipton said.
He said there were no cameras on the site, and it was dark, so he is doubtful any neighboring businesses that lie about 300 yards away in the Route 24 and Route 5 vicinity could have caught the incident on their security cameras.
Tipton said when he heard that Crimestoppers was offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire, the company decided to add another $10,000.
“We said 'Awesome, we'll just tag onto that,'” he said.
Security cameras are now being installed at the site, Tipton said, and he expects reconstruction of the building to begin in January. He said he had hoped to open the building in March, but now expects it to be complete by September.
Building expert Steve Conboy said he has tracked arson fires across the country in his 45 years of construction experience. He said he has seen an uptick, mostly happening in urban areas of Texas, Colorado and California.
According to a report by the United States Fire Administration, more than half a million fires are set by arsonists each year nationwide, costing $3 billion in damages. Nearly one in four fires set between 2010 and 2014 were arson, according to data by the United States Interior Department.
“Some are saying the opioid addiction is behind this with many homeless people sleeping at these construction sites,” he said.
Lumber used in today's buildings also burns faster because it is not as dense as materials cut from mature trees, he said. “Buildings will burn faster with those materials,” he said.
Conboy, chairman of M-Fire Suppression Inc., markets a chemical that, he said, protects wood-framed buildings from fire.
“Until you defend 100 percent of the lumber, your risk is great,” he said.