HS plant fire ‘suspicious’

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By Jenny Hartley

HEATH SPRINGS – Firefighters were able to contain a suspicious fire at the American Wax plant to one room of the main office building Sunday.

Heath Springs Volunteer Fire Department Chief Patrick Helms said the fire began about 1:30 p.m. His department, along with Kershaw, Rich Hill and Pleasant Hill, was called to fight the fire.

Helms said it took less than 250 gallons of water to put out the fire in the office. The blaze also ignited the grass outside the building.

No one was working at the plant on Sunday when the fire started, Helms said. Believing the fire was suspicious, he turned the case over to the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.

Maj. David Belk stopped short of saying that Sunday’s fire was arson.

“Let’s just say it’s extremely suspicious,” Belk said Wednesday. “The investigators have some good leads on it.”

A deputy noticed a broken window at the front of the building and found the back door of the plant warehouse open. The warehouse supervisor, George Gay, arrived and told deputies that the door was secure on Friday, report said.

Gay told deputies that someone apparently broke into the snack machine, and tried breaking into the drink machine in the warehouse, causing $1,200 in damage. About $10 was missing from the snack machine.

Deputies found a rock that had been thrown through the window of the office building.

Damage from the fire was estimated at $50,000, according to the report.

American Wax opened in Heath Springs in 1985.

In July 2001, a huge fire broke out at the plant during working hours. Officials said it was accidentally started by welders working in the building. That fire destroyed a major portion of the plant’s manufacturing area and offices.


Contact senior reporter Jenny Hartley at jhartley@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1151