WHITING | State fire marshals believe the fire that destroyed a three-story building in the city's downtown in January may have been set.
The office ruled the cause of the fire points to an incendiary and forwarded the case to local law enforcement, Garret Walton, Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman, confirmed Wednesday.
The Jan. 20 fire destroyed Lubia's Dresses and Events shop and seven apartments inside the 100-year-old building at the corner of 119th and Sheridan streets. Whiting fire officials previously confirmed the fire started in the dress shop before spreading to the upstairs apartments, affecting approximately 17 residents and the downtown business district.
Whiting police Detective Sgt. Brad Stelow said the fire marshals' incident report found evidence indicating an ignitable liquid had been poured on the floor of the dress shop prior to the flames igniting.
Stelow said several arson investigators were involved in the investigation, but as he understands, the fire's cause will be considered undetermined unless other evidence is obtained.
The owner of the dress shop has been fully cooperative and helpful in the investigation, Stelow said.
Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura said the investigation was complicated by how the building collapsed because the roof and the subsequent floors all went down on top of each other.
“I mean you always have to rule this out first,” Stahura said. “I'm not sure I have been told there is conclusive evidence at this point. I'm kind of waiting for that.”