Authorities today confirmed that arson was the cause of a Sept. 1 fire that heavily damaged the Eudora Lumber Co.
Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson and Eudora Police Chief Bill Long said this morning that they are continuing to search for a suspect.
Long said investigators actually concluded "around the first of the month" that arson was the cause, but withheld the information because they thought divulging the cause would hamper the investigation.
Neither Long nor Anderson would release further details about the fire or the search for a suspect.
"There are only six people who know the five of us (investigators) and the person who did it," Long said about details such as where and how the fire was started.
The fire destroyed two buildings at the lumberyard and a nearby historic railroad depot, which the lumber company used for storage. A smaller barnlike structure also was destroyed.
FIREFIGHTERS from Lawrence, Eudora, Eudora Township and other departments responded to the early-morning fire and fought the blaze for several hours before it was brought under control.
Long said investigators concluded that arson caused the fire after receiving a report from Edward Schaeffer, an independent fire investigator based in Kansas City, Mo.
Long said Schaeffer was recommended by Larry Stemmerman, a Lawrence fire investigator who was among the first investigators on the scene.
Schaeffer was called in after a special 10-member task force that was formed to investigate the blaze interviewed 30 to 40 people and disbanded without reaching a conclusion.
The arson, which was the first reported in Eudora this year, was the 18th that Lawrence firefighters have investigated in 1990.
INFORMATION provided to the Journal-World by Lawrence Fire Chief Jim McSwain showed that the arson damage total not including the Eudora fire was more than $51,000.
Authorities estimated damage for the fire at more than $600,000, which would push the total arson damage to more than $650,000.
Statistics included in the fire department's most recent annual report show that the heaviest arson damage total for one year was $232,050 in 1989.
The combined arson damage estimate from 1985 through 1989 was $520,380.
Stemmerman indicated in his letter to McSwain that investigators have uncovered suspects in seven of the 18 arsons this year. All of the suspects, he wrote, have been juveniles.
McSwain said the number of arsons is about normal. Statistics show that as of late-September in 1988, firefighters had investigated 25 arsons. In 1989, firefighters had investigated 15 arsons by October.