Authorities say progress in being made

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By The Staff

Authorities have confirmed that the fire at the 6th Circuit Solicitor’s office last week was indeed arson. However, no arrests have been made in either that fire or the one Aug. 4 that destroyed the historic Lancaster County Courthouse.

Lancaster Police Capt. Harlean Howard gave an update on the fire investigations at a press conference Monday afternoon at the Municipal Justice Center.“The cause of the fire at the Solicitor’s Office has been determined to be arson,” Howard read from a press release. “However, investigators will not comment on the exact method of how the fire was started. Physical evidence has been identified and is being examined at the State Law Enforcement Division’s laboratory.”The courthouse was set on fire before 5:25 a.m. Aug. 4. It was reported by a passerby on her way to work.Authorities quickly determined that the blaze, which was set in the second floor courtroom near the judge’s bench, was arson.The fire burned through the roof of the courthouse, which was built in 1828 and designed by Robert Mills, who also had a hand in designing the Washington Monument. Eight fire departments fought the blaze.The bottom floor of the courthouse sustained smoke and water damage, but remains intact. Engineers have determined that the courthouse remains structurally sound, and county officials plan to rebuild the historic building.About 4:15 a.m. Thursday, authorities responded to another suspicious fire at 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield’s office, on West Dunlap Street in the shadow of the courthouse. The fire also damaged four other attorney’s offices in the same building.Neither building was equipped with an alarm system. County Council is expected to discuss security at government buildings, particularly where court records are kept, at tonight’s council meeting.New leads?It is unknown if authorities have new leads or if any suspects have been determined, or if the two fires are related. Howard did not answer questions on Monday regarding the ongoing investigation.Investigators have interviewed witnesses and informants, who have provided significant information, Howard said. “But investigators know that there are others in the community who also have information and these individuals need to contact investigators,” she said.Howard again urged the public to report suspicious activities or comments.Those conversations may include comments such as:– What do they expect? They didn’t have any alarm systems– It was probably just some kids– The court here is corrupt or biased– No one was hurtSLED and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continue to assist local agencies in the case.A reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of the person or persons responsible.Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call the South Carolina Arson Hotline at 1 (800) 92 ARSON or Crime Stoppers at 1 (888) 559-TIPS. You can also call the Lancaster Police Department at 283-1171 or the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office at 283-3388