YORK -- The fire that destroyed York's Lockmore Mill on Thursday night has been labeled "suspicious," and posters for an arson hotline have been placed at the scene, York Fire Chief Domenic Manera said Monday.
"Fires burn in a pattern, and there are some situations at this scene that do not add up. They don't point to your typical accidental fire," Manera said at a press conference Monday afternoon. "There are some things with the burns that are suspicious."
Local and state authorities have been investigating since Thursday, when the blaze started around 7 p.m. The intense fire, which created black smoke seen for miles, destroyed all but one wing of the century-old cotton mill at the corner of Hunter and Madison streets near downtown York. No one was injured.
The red brick building, vacant since the 1960s and overgrown for years, was in the middle of a renovation project that would have turned it into apartments for senior adults. Construction workers left for the night less than an hour before flames engulfed the work site.
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Fire's progression creates 'a red flag'
While not completely ruling out an accidental cause, Manera said he was "leaning more to the suspicious side," and that he was "90 percent" confident the cause would be uncovered.
"We have determined the areas where it began," Manera said. When asked if that meant the blaze began in more than one spot, he responded: "I'll leave it at that."
He later explained that accidental fires usually follow a "natural progression" from the starting point through the structure. In this case, some indicators of that progression aren't present.
"You have to be able to add all the pieces together," Manera said. "When one of those pieces is missing, it throws up a red flag."
'We need some help'
Investigators have interviewed several people who were "at the scene early on," Manera said. But he would not say whether they were suspects or just eyewitnesses. He said authorities hope to talk with "a couple more individuals."
Evidence of any potential accelerants would have been destroyed in the blaze, Manera said, but other evidence that may explain the cause is being analyzed. Witnesses have reported hearing an explosion about the time the fire began.
Authorities are asking anyone with information to call an arson hotline at 1-800-92-ARSON or York Police at (803) 684-4141.
"We're extending our arms to the community. We need some help. ... If anyone has a potential lead, hearsay or not, let us determine if it's credible," Manera said. "This facility meant a lot to the York community, and we want to make sure we leave no stone uncovered."