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updated: 7/18/2014 4:50 PM

Downtown Mt. Prospect fire not labeled arson so far, chief says

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  • An Illinois state fire marshal's report says the Feb. 9 fire that began in the basement of Sakura Japanese Restaurant in downtown Mount Prospect was caused by the ignition of ordinary combustibles, but does not call it arson.

      An Illinois state fire marshal's report says the Feb. 9 fire that began in the basement of Sakura Japanese Restaurant in downtown Mount Prospect was caused by the ignition of ordinary combustibles, but does not call it arson.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, February 2014

 
 

Though an Illinois state fire marshal's report classifies a February fire that destroyed a prominent building in downtown Mount Prospect as "incendiary in nature," Mount Prospect Fire Chief John Malcolm said neither the terms "arson" nor "suspicious" have yet been applied to the ongoing investigation of the blaze.

The early morning fire of Feb. 9 that began in the south basement of Sakura Japanese Restaurant at 105 S. Main St. gutted the entire commercial and residential building it shared with other tenants.

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In its search for the cause of the fire, the investigation ultimately focused on a red plastic container holding an unspecified liquid and nearby straw material, both of which were inside a closet in the south basement.

But when an arson investigation dog was brought to the scene, it gave no indications of accelerants or any of the types of materials it was trained to find.

The state fire marshal's report concludes that "this fire is being classified as incendiary in nature, with the ignition of ordinary combustibles, with the heat source being that of an open flame. This case is being closed and further investigation will be conducted pending the development of new leads."

Chief Malcolm explained that as the lead agency, his department's investigation is staying open to be able to incorporate any new information that may develop.

Members of the Illinois state fire marshal's office said they could not further interpret the language of their report other than to confirm that their part of the investigation is now closed.

The fire destroyed a historic part of downtown Mount Prospect known as the Busse Building. It has housed a number of fondly remembered businesses since it was constructed in the mid-1920s.

The part of the building that housed Sakura was demolished shortly after the fire. The remainder of the building is in the process of being torn down.

The building contained upper-story apartments and several other commercial tenants, including Picket Fence Realty and the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce. Though some residents were home when the fire began, all escaped without injury.

In the aftermath of the fire, both Picket Fence Realty and the Mount Prospect Chamber of Commerce found permanent new homes in the village. Picket Fence is at 400 W. Central Road, and the chamber is at 662 E. Northwest Hwy. A third business, Central Continental Bakery, continues to operate out of a temporary location at 17 W. Prospect Ave.

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