MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) -- Riley County police say a fire at the Salvation Army in Downtown Manhattan was purposefully set by someone who broke into the building.
At approximately 1:45 AM on Saturday, June 23, 2012, the Manhattan Fire Department responded to Poyntz Avenue near the Manhattan Town Center Mall for a report of a smell of smoke.
When crews arrived, they found a fire in the building at 310 Poyntz Avenue, which is occupied by the Salvation Army.
Ryan Almes, the Deputy Chief of the Manhattan Fire Department, stated in a press release: “Manhattan Fire Department unites made an aggressive interior attack and controlled the fire in approximately 25 minutes but the building suffered substantial smoke and heat damage.”
The fire caused an estimated $150,000 in damage. No injuries were reported.
On Monday, Almes released the following information, stating that the fire was the result of arson: "The fire that occurred on Saturday morning, June 23rd, 2012 at The Salvation Army, located at 310 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, Kan. has been ruled an incendiary fire by investigators. The result of the scene examination concluded that the fire originated in the middle portion of the building. Sufficient evidence was recovered during the investigation to eliminate all known potential accidental ignition sources and determine the fire was intentionally set. Fire investigators from the Manhattan Fire Department, in cooperation with the Riley County Police Department are currently working on the investigation."
Captain Jeff Hooper, who oversees the Riley County Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division, says it appears that someone broke into the building and stole several items as well as an undetermined amount of cash and intentionally set the fire.
Amanda Waters, Divisional Director of Community Relations for The Salvation Army's Kansas & Western Missouri Division released the following statement Monday: "The Salvation Army Thrift Store in Manhattan, Kansas is closed until further notice, following a fire early Saturday morning that caused more than $150,000 in damage to the building at 310 Poyntz Avenue. The Salvation Army’s Community Care office, which provides emergency assistance, was not affected by the fire and continues regular operations, Monday-Friday, 10 am-noon and 1-3 pm. The Salvation Army’s worship space was also unaffected. Church services are held every Sunday morning at 11 am. The Community Care office and the sanctuary are located next door to the thrift store."
“We are currently looking for a temporary location to operate out of until we are able to reopen the thrift store,” said Major Charles Smith, divisional commander of The Salvation Army for Kansas and Western Missouri. “Revenue from our thrift store helps fund the many community programs and social services we provide to assist people in need in Manhattan.”
Riley County authorities Monday afternoon said they are investigating the fire as a burglary and arson.
"It’s an ongoing investigation and we’re hoping that we can find some leads and actually find who started this fire because as sad as it is to have an arson fire, with the place like the Salvation Army, they lost a lot of goods and a lot of merchandise and clothing that would have helped out a lot of needy families," said Manhattan Fire Chief Jerry Snyder. According to Snyder, the fire started on the first floor in the middle of the building. He commended his firefighters for bringing the blaze under control so quickly.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan Salvation Army is welcoming new leadership this week. Lt. Kirsten Aho will be the new Corps Officer in charge of The Salvation Army in Manhattan. She is replacing Majors Jerry and Nancy Curttright, who are retiring.
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