LOCKPORT – The day after fire ripped through the old Kohl’s Cycle Sales on Gooding Street, arson investigators were searching Wednesday for clues to the cause of the fire.
“It appears to be an arson, because it was a big complex, but it could have been kids or transients that accidentally started the fire,” said Capt. Richard Podgers, chief of detectives.
He said that arson investigators were on the scene Wednesday and that the investigation is continuing.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said a city employee who happened to be in the area saw three teenagers running away from the scene just before the fire was reported. He said the employee noticed flames and called 911 shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
City firefighters battled the two-alarm blaze with assistance from South Lockport volunteer firefighters, and firefighters were on the scene until noon Wednesday, continuing to put out hot spots. At one point, as the fire blazed, firefighters battled small fires that broke out along the nearby railroad trestle, which ultimately was not damaged in the fire.
Police Chief Lawrence M. Eggert said the fire was suspicious and called the building a total loss.
“There are no utilities into the place, no gas or electrical. You are certainly limited as to the cause as something suspicious,” Eggert said. “There’s quite a bit of damage inside – in fact there is no inside of the building left.”
The building had been vacant for a number of years, and the old Kohl’s Cycle Shop had already totally cleared out any remaining parts, said Podgers. However, he said the building has been a problem for police from looters looking for metal and children who look at the site as an adventure.
The city took ownership of the 1875, stone/brick building in 2008 and hoped to demolish it but ran into resistance from the state’s historic preservation office.
Tucker said that office now has given approval to take it down. He said an emergency demolition is planned in a day or two.
All of the windows were broken, and a front wall of the 53,360-square-foot building was caving in before the fire.