Reward offered in arsons


At an impasse in their investigation, federal agents in Baltimore have announced a $2,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest of those responsible for three multialarm warehouse fires that struck a company in the city last year.

Special Agent Gregg Hine, an arson investigator with Baltimore field office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the first fire at Life-Like Products' Northwest Baltimore warehouse on Retreat Street, in January 2005, is still ruled accidental by city officials.

But the team of federal and local investigators decided to investigate further after two arsons in April. One damaged a warehouse filled with foam picnic coolers in Brooklyn and destroyed another one nearby, behind the district courthouse in the 700 block of Patapsco Ave.

Hine said the polystyrene coolers stored inside served as an especially dangerous accelerant, fueling a four-alarm fire April 11 at the Patapsco Avenue location that burned out of control for more than four hours.

"The problem with the second fire is that it was at an unsecured facility," Hine said. "The gates and doors were open. It was in the evening, and employees were working. No one we talked to saw anything."

Jerry Kandel, chief executive officer of the company, now Lifoam Industries, said this week that about 60 employees had to be moved or lost their jobs as a result of the fires.

"It's been almost a year, and we haven't heard anything recently about the investigation," said Kandel, who estimated the damage in the millions of dollars.

Anyone with information about the fires is asked to call 888-ATF-FIRE.

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