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Woman wants answers

Cary Ashby • Updated Aug 31, 2016 at 11:19 PM

WILLARD — Was it an arson or not?

Either way, the April 18 fire at 1 N. Main St., Willard, remains under investigation. Authorities are saying little about the incident being investigated by the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office.

A woman whose late mother lived there is seeking some resolution to the case. She declined to give her name for fear of retaliation.

“They had told me it was an arson,” she recently told the Reflector. “They said it was still an open case. They didn’t tell me how it started.

“They tore that (house) down pretty quickly after it burned,” said the woman, who assumes that was the landlord’s decision.

When asked Tuesday about any rulings on the fire, Lindsey Burnworth, spokeswoman for the state fire marshal’s office, said “it actually is an undetermined fire.”

State investigators were called to the Willard house soon after the incident occurred.

“They were at the scene three to four hours,” Burnworth said.

In a typical investigation, she said investigators collect, gather and process evidence and interview witnesses.

“Sometimes (the evidence) is sent to our forensics center,” Burnworth added.

Willard & Fire Rescue was dispatched to 1 N. Main St. at 11:47 p.m. April 18. The first of 21 firefighters were at the scene eight minutes later and had the blaze under control 30 minutes later.

At the scene were three engines, a ladder truck and three ambulances.

Chief Joe Reiderman said the last crew member left the house at 1:22 p.m. the next day, since firefighters were there to secure the property. The crew also handled what the chief called “mop-up work.”

Reiderman, citing the ongoing investigation by the state, declined to say where in the house the fire started.

“We had one firefighter (who) received an electric shock as they were doing a search,” the chief said.

The firefighter was treated at the scene.

The Willard Police Department only was involved in the early part of the investigation.

“We were able to develop some leads and spoke to some witnesses. Once the fire marshal brought in their investigation team and took over, we turned that over to them,” Chief Mark Holden said. “They are the lead investigator in the case.”

The daughter shared how she learned about the fire.

“My aunt actually called me. The police department called her boyfriend,” she said.

The woman saved a video of the fire that someone shared on social media. She said she was shocked and in disbelief when she saw it. 

Her late mother lived in the house about a year, but died nearly two weeks before the fire. Her husband was living there at the time of the blaze, but wasn’t home.

“There was nothing of value in the house,” said the daughter, who had retrieved sentimental items belonging to her mom before the fire. “They rented that house.”

She was asked if fire marshal’s investigators had any suspects in mind. 

“They had a couple (people) they were talking to,” said the woman, who spoke to investigators a couple months ago.

“They think they know who did it. They just didn’t have the evidence,” she added. 

“Basically, we hope this story will help anyone who knows anything — who has a heart — to come forward,” she said.

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