Fire to Bell Building was arson

Published 7:10 am Tuesday, October 16, 2007

By By ERIKA PICKLES / Niles Daily Star
NILES – The fire that broke out in the Bell Building Friday afternoon was ruled to be arson, according to Niles Township Fire Chief Gary Brovold.
On Monday afternoon, state fire investigators from the Michigan State Police Fire Marshal's Office in Paw Paw visited the site of the old school building on Bell Road and came to the conclusion, that the fire was deliberately started.
"That was our initial thought because there's no other reason why or how it could have started and the investigators confirmed that today," Brovold said Moonday.
He stated the fire started about 20 feet inside the building and that minimal damage was done, with costs right around $500. The Niles Township Fire Department is located just around the corner from the Bell Building, so response times helped keep the damage minimal.
According to an employee with Niles Township, someone witnessed a car pulling away from the building and its property just after 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. It wasn't long after that smoke was noticed coming from the chimneys of the building.
Brovold said the building is used by the Niles Haunted House for storage and that there is no electricity on the inside of the building.
Pete Karlowicz, spokesperson for the Haunted House, said it will more than likely continue to be used as storage and he can't understand why anyone would want to purposely start a fire to the building.
"There's no obvious reason, but that building could have many enemies as it used to be the Small World Preschool. It's just hard to believe that someone could do this 20 plus years later. I have no idea why they would do this now," Karlowicz said.
Karlowicz said as far as he knows, there are no plans to fix the building up, especially since there wasn't too much damage.
"To my knowledge it is just some smoke and water damage. I'm not even sure what was destroyed. But eventually that building will go back to the school at the termination of lease, so it's hard telling what the future plans are," he added.
The investigation was turned over to the Michigan State Police Niles Post. Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact the state police at 683-4411, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-342-STOP or the Michigan Arson Tip Line at 1-800-44-ARSON.
There is a $5,000 reward for anyone who has information that may lead to the arrest of the suspect or suspects.