Leads mount in search for arsonist

By Jonathan Delozier - jdelozier@aimmediamidwest.com

While no arrests have been made in the search for one or more arsonists responsible for three Sept. 17 fires in Wellington, police chief Tim Barfield said tips are helping immensely.

“There are leads and there are suspects,” he said. “Arsons are never easy to get to the bottom of and it’s a long, slow process. We’ve gotten tons of information because of our Facebook post and we’re just trying to sort through all of it.”

The largest of the fires completely destroyed the old bird seed processing plant and adjacent building housing two businesses at the corner of Depot Street and Rt. 58.

At some point that same night, a fire was set at the police auxiliary building on Kelly Street and another blaze was nearly started at a historical residence on Forest Street.

A $5,000 reward has been offered by the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those responsible for the fires. If you have a tip to offer, call the Wellington police at 440-647-2244, fire department at 440-647-2245, or state fire marshal at 800-589-2728.

Last December, a $5,000 reward was also offered for a house fire lit on Clay Street. On the same evening of that incident, a 2002 Dodge Dakota was found in flames on South Main Street.

In May, an outside vestibule at 126 Depot St. was also struck by arson.

“I wish I knew for sure, but my suspicion is that they’re all related,” Barfield said. “We currently have nothing to link them all together. But like I said, it’s a long process.”

He believes the most recent fires to be the work of a single person. Profiles of arsonists suggest they don’t typically work in groups, the chief said.

Fire chief Mike Wetherbee said he’s still thinking about how close the factory fire came to spreading to other parts of Wellington’s downtown district.

“We tried to get back to business as usual the next day,” he said. “The first half hour to 45 minutes that night was pretty tense. What’s gone is gone but thinking about what else could have been lost is an eye opener. We’re proud of the job we did and the support we received from other departments and communities.”

Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.

By Jonathan Delozier