ATF on the hunt for arsonist

Firefighters stage during a fire on Feb. 11 at Morgan Hall. The high-rise has been the site of five fires that were deliberately set, officials have said. | JOHN MORITZ / TTN

A week after multiple fires set in Morgan Hall caused evacuations of the site and attracted a scene on Broad Street, authorities are still looking for the person or persons who deliberately set five fires in the high-rise.

The fires were set on Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 and caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the building, said Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent Steven Bartholomew. No fires have been reported since last week.

Though earlier reports indicated that three construction workers were treated for smoke inhalation, James Creedon, senior vice president for construction, facilities and operations, said one worker suffered very minor injuries and nobody was transported to the hospital.

“My understanding was that during one of the fires in the afternoon [Tuesday], there was a guy who had a little bit of smoke inhalation, but he just basically headed home,” Creedon said.

The fires all involved construction debris and appeared to be started with a lighter, Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said. Temple police officers have been detailed to the site to know “100 percent who’s in the building,” Leone said.

While the incidents impacted five floors of the 27-story building, Creedon said work hasn’t been delayed at the construction site.

“Other than the inconvenience that occurred as the workers had to vacate the building, there’s been no significant change in schedule or production, or our time frame at all,” Creedon said. “Nothing’s going to impact the schedule.”

The ATF is offering a reward of up to $5,000 in conjunction with L.F. Driscoll Company – the building’s construction manager – which is offering up to $10,000 for the arrest of those responsible for the arsons. The combined $15,000 in rewards was announced Feb. 14.

While issues between unions have been reported in the past at major construction sites across the city, Creedon said the site’s workers are 100 percent union and it’s a non-issue at Morgan Hall.

Firefighters stage during a fire on Feb. 11 at Morgan Hall. The high-rise has been the site of five fires that were deliberately set, officials have said. | JOHN MORITZ / TTN
JOHN MORITZ / TTN

“This is not even a jurisdictional dispute among the trades,” Creedon said. “The trades have been right there with us since day one as our partner on this job.”

The fires all occurred during the daytime. On Feb. 11, three fires were reported at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m., on the 15th, 20th and 18th floors, respectively. The two fires on Feb. 12, occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and were on the 13th and 16th floors, respectively.

Temple issued a TU Advisory in response to the fires on Feb. 13, which read that the fires were not serious and “federal and city authorities are investigating the incidents, which have been limited to the worksite and pose no threat to the Temple community.”

Sean Carlin can be reached at sean.carlin@temple.edu or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84. 

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