Alleged arson suspect in custody

MIDDLEPORT – Crews were working through the night and into the morning following a fire allegedly started by someone in the alley behind Ingels Carpet and Flooring. By 3 a.m. only Middleport Fire Department remained on the scene.

According to Middleport Fire Department Chief, Jeff Darst, it was too difficult to tell last night exactly where the fire originated, but it was from the back of the buildings in the alleyway. The back wall of the Ingels building collapsed making it difficult to assess much Monday night. The state fire marshal will be on the scene to begin investigating the fire at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. The chief said in addition to Middleport six other departments responded to battle the blaze that has claimed the Ingels building and damaged two others. Fire fighters from Pomeroy, Rutland, Syracuse, Racine, Mason, and New Haven departments were assisting Middleport Fire Department with a total of about 75 fire fighters on the scene Monday night according to Chief Darst.

Additionally, Meigs County EMS was on hand if needed with Medic 5, Medic 7 and Squad 44. No one was injured in the blaze. Some people brought bottled water for the firefighters.

According to Middleport Police Department’s Lt. Frank Stewart, a suspect was in custody shortly after the fire had been discovered. Allegedly a lit gas can was thrown into either a building or the area behind one of the buildings in the alleyway. Lt. Stewart said the investigation is ongoing and added the name of the suspect was not being released at that time. He also said the first call came in at 10:05 p.m. that there was a fire.

Streets were blocked off in all directions limiting travel on roads through the village. Fire trucks lined the streets as manpower from seven departments worked to contain the blaze. Just after midnight the fire was contained, but not extinguished. Rolls of carpet and other flooring from Ingels intensified the blaze. A wall on the back of the Ingels building collapsed at one point during the fire sending bricks close to a residence behind the store and across the alleyway. An incredible amount of water filled the alleyways, streets and sidewalks as firemen continued to battle the flames. Water was being drawn from the Ohio River in addition to fire hydrants. At the highest point in the fire, flames were reportedly 35 feet high with a towering column of smoke rising to the sky.

A section of North Second Street remained closed through the night and will remain so for at least most of the day Tuesday to allow for the fire marshal to investigate and due to questions about the stability of some of the structures.

The Meigs Independent Press will update the story as information becomes available.