Arson suspected in Cleveland plant fire - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Arson suspected in Cleveland plant fire

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Investigators say a fire at a Cleveland plant is suspicious.

"We do feel like it's a set fire. No doubt about it," exclaimed Lt. Donnie Sullivan of the Cleveland Fire Department. "Couches don't just catch on fire by themselves."

After a closer look at the scene, Sullivan believed the blaze at the Catnapper manufacturing plant Tuesday was no accident. Firefighters pulled up shortly after 7 a-a.m..

"Firefighters arrived on the scene. There is heavy smoke coming from the warehouse area," said Sullivan.

Smoke so thick, he said, some of the men hard a hard time getting in and out of the building; but the fire was contained quickly with limited structural damage.

Dozens of employees who had just arrived at work were evacuated briefly and business wasn't interrupted for long. It's not believed anyone other than employees were on the premises.

"We do think that someone inside the building who works here did set that fire," said Sullivan.

Another reason he suspects foul play is the damage to several pieces of merchandise in the 20 foot radius of the fire. The floor is concrete, and clues fed the flames of suspicion.

"When the couches are in this warehouse, they're all standing up and there's no reason for a fire to happen, especially right in the middle of all the couches," explained Sullivan. "So we feel like we do have a problem."

Naturally, questioning began at the scene of the alleged crime to see where the trail would lead. Workers were interviewed.

"We're centering our investigation right now on employees here. Somebody who was inside the building there at the time," stated Sullivan.

It's a delicate process for everyone, but it's the best place to start to try to get someone to talk.

"A lot of people are scared. A lot of people are nervous. A lot of people don't want to lose their jobs. It's that type of thing," said Sullivan.

Plant officials didn't specify how many dollars were lost by the burned merchandise and the affected area of the warehouse was cleaned up quickly.

The investigation continues and a $1500 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case. Catnapper says it will match the reward. If you can help, contact the state Bomb & Arson Division. Your call will remain anonymous.

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