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Lancaster’s court system was under fire again early Thursday morning, as what authorities are already calling a suspicious fire burned 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield’s office.
A passerby called in the fire at 4:14 a.m., Lancaster Fire Department Chief Chris Nunnery said. The fire department arrived two minutes later to find heavy fire at the door of the office. The blaze damaged four other lawyers’ offices in the same brick building on West Dunlap Street, in the shadow of the charred Lancaster County Courthouse.
Nunnery said it’s difficult to tell right now how long the fire had been burning before it was called in or how it started. Investigators from the Lancaster Police Department, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, State Law Enforcement Division and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were at the scene.
Lancaster Police Department patrol officers stopped every car coming onto Main Street at checkpoints between Gay and Meeting streets to identify those coming near the crime scene. Officers asked for driver’s licenses and wrote down those numbers.
SLED and ATF are also investigating the courthouse fire, which was called in about 5:25 a.m. Monday. Authorities have no suspects in the courthouse fire, and do not know if Thursday morning’s fire at Barfield’s office is related. Officers were not posted at the courthouse Wednesday night and early Thursday, because the building had been secured and boarded up by 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nunnery said.
Nunnery didn’t know the extent of the loss at Barfield’s office or if court records were lost. From the doorway of the building, it appeared the office was gutted.
“There’s heavy damage to the office itself,” Nunnery said.
A general sessions term is in session, and was expected to continue at 9:30 a.m. Thursday at the Municipal Justice Center, he said.
Nunnery urged anyone with information about the fire to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-559-TIPS (8477) or the S.C. Insurance News Service arson hotline at 1-800-92ARSON.
“Be vigilant,” Nunnery said. “Most crimes reported are reported by civilians.”
A press conference will be held at 11 a.m. today.
Contact senior reporter
Jenny Hartley at 283-1151