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Fire at former police department building reported as arson

Demopolis firefighters responded to a fire at the former police department building on Walnut Avenue Wednesday, Oct. 16.

The Demopolis Fire and Rescue received the initial call at 6:49 p.m. and, after about a 4 minute response time, were able to extinguish the fire within 4 to 5 minutes, according to DFR Battalion Chief James Bailey.

“We arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the front doors and one of the office windows, which is where the fire orginated,” Bailey said.

Upon arrival, Bailey said a quick search was performed to ensure no one was in the building after which a two-man crew entered with a hose to knock the fire out. “Our first concern was that vagrants could be in the building. Once we determined no one was in the building the fire was put out, which took only a few minutes.

The fire at the long-vacated building is being labeled as arson.

“There’s no other way the fire could have started,” Bailey said. “The power is shut off at the pole, so the only way a fire could have started is if it was set. Perhaps somebody was there and started a fire to keep warm or maybe it was something more malicious,” Bailey said.

Firefighters cleared the scene by 8:10 p.m.

Bailey said the fire is a good reminder for everyone going into the winter season.

“With winter time coming we ask the public be watchful of people in buildings where they shouldn’t be. No one wants people to be out in the cold, but there are other options. Sometimes people will start a fire to stay warm and they fall asleep, which could lead to tragedy.

“Even in our own homes, make sure your chimney is swept and your furnaces and other heating appliances are in good working order,” Bailey said.

Overall, Bailey said the old police building suffered moderate damage as much of the building is constructed with brick and cinder block.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, October 23 issue of the Demopolis Times.)