Investigators: Byron Fire Was Arson

By: Lindsay Veremis Email
By: Lindsay Veremis Email

The fire that destroyed two businesses in downtown Byron Monday was arson. State Police were at the scene investigating all Wednesday and say they have now gathered enough evidence to confirm the blaze was deliberately set.

It started in a vacant apartment above one of the village's most popular restaurants.

"I don't know how you deal with it really, I guess you laugh about it," Aaron Mount, who lived in another apartment above the historic building. Mount's place was on the side that fared the best, but like others in the building, many of his things are destroyed.

"It's just hard, it's hard to see these families that have had these businesses for years that are now possibly not going to rebuild and it's devastating to the little village for sure," Fire Chief Rick Mursall said.

Firefighters and State Police investigators spent hours digging into the 19th century building looking for signs of what caused the fire. Because it appeared suspicious, they also called in a specially trained K9. He is able to sniff out fire-starting liquids and point investigators to possible signs of arson.

"He's a great assistance to us yes," Special Sergeant Lenny Jaskulka, with State Police said. "The dog gives us an indication of where it is and the way and position it is in the fire debris."

After an initial pass, the K9 zeroed in on an area inside the building. Firefighters also took a close look, then dug it up for evidence.

"We're going to send that to the Bridgeport Crime Lab for analysis," Jaskulka explained.

Crews are also trying to figure out if the building is structurally sound. The village says it will be a few days before inspectors know if they'll need to tear it down.

The case now moves to the Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office. Investigators won't say if they have any suspects yet, because this is an ongoing investigation.

Firefighters say there is a chance a resale shop in the building, the least damaged in the structure, could be up and running in the next week.

Janelle's restaurant and a hardware store are a total loss. It's still unclear if a hair salon in the building will be able to rebuild.


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