A fire at the former location of W.J. Smith Wood Preserving Company was intentionally set Friday evening, Denison Fire Rescue officials said.
“It’s pretty obvious that it was an intentionally set fire,” Denison Fire Marshal John Weda said. “Whether the kids accidentally did it or did it on purpose — some juveniles were seen over there before it.”
The fire at the vacant structure was reported at about 6:13 p.m., and Weda said the flames were contained within an hour. Crews stayed on scene for about an hour longer. He noted that firefighters took defensive measures and battled the blaze from the outside. Juveniles were observed running away from the structure just prior to the fire, Weda said.
“There’s nothing else there that could have caused a fire,” Weda said. “There’s no utilities — there’s nothing in there other than somebody intentionally doing something.”
In June 2016, an electrical fire occurred at the same location. Weda said varmints chewed through wires in the attic and caused a short. After that fire, all the utilities were cut from the property, Weda said. He said the structure was previously declared unsafe, and it on was the city’s demolition list.
With the damage caused from the first fire, Weda said it was difficult to determine the extent of damage caused by the latest bout of flames on the long vacant structure. He also noted the structure appears like it could collapse.
“It’s hard to tell how much more damage was done,” Weda said. “It was totaled before and it’s totaled again.”
Weda noted that the property does have a caretaker who reported he has previously chased off juveniles from the structure.
“They try to secure it the best they can with fencing and gates, but a lot of times they climb the fence, and they get in there,” Weda said. “It certainly looks like it’s an intentional fire.”
The Environmental Protection Agency classified the location of the building, which is located at 1700 West Morton Street, as an archived superfund site. Superfund sites currently or formerly had contamination by one or more hazardous wastes. However, as an archived superfund site, the EPA does not require any cleanup action or further investigation of the property at this time. The W.J. Smith Wood facility was opened in 1901 and ceased operations in 1991.
Anyone with information on the fire can contact the police department at 903-465-2422 or the fire marshal’s office at 903-465-2720.