MIDDLEPORT — Smoke and flames billowed from several building in downtown Middleport late Monday night as firefighters responded to a call around 10 p.m. Additional crews were soon called to assist the Middleport responders as they battled to keep the fire from spreading further.
Middleport police had a suspect in custody shortly after the fire was discovered. Reports indicated the possible cause of the fire may have been a lit gas can thrown into either a building or the alleyway behind the buildings, but it was impossible to ascertain the exact cause at that time with the fire still under way.
Chief Bruce Swift reported Tuesday afternoon that the Middleport Police Department has charged Keith R. Day 31, of Middleport, with aggravated arson, a felony of the first degree, following their investigation.
Swift said his office received a call of a fire in the area of 175 N. Second Ave. Officers with the Middleport Police Department responded to the scene along with the Middleport Fire Department and Meigs County EMS.
After fire crews confirmed the structure was fully involved, additional fire departments were called to the scene to assist. The Major Crimes Task Force of Gallia-Meigs was also called in for assistance due to the task force allegedly receiving a tip that the fire was intentionally started.
After speaking with several witnesses in the area, Middleport police and task force agents took Days into custody.
During the fire’s progression, the back wall of the Ingles Carpet and Flooring building collapsed and the contents of the building added to the fire’s intensty. The fire was under control by 3 a.m., but had left the Ingles building completely destroyed. At least two buildings were damaged by the fire, officials said, and there was possible smoke damage to others.
In total, seven fire departments were on the scene including Middleport, Pomeroy, Rutland, Syracuse, Racine, Mason and the New Haven. Also present were Middleport police, Meigs County Sheriff’s Office, Pomeroy police and Meigs EMS.
There were no reported injuries, and the State Fire Marshal’s office was at the site to begin their investigation early Tuesday morning.
Phones in Rutland and Middleport have been out of service since the fire. Swift said Frontier phone lines are being repaired and additional crews have been brought in to assist. He indicated service would not be restored before May 18 and could be later in the week for some areas.
He advised anyone needing to contact the Middleport Police Department can contact Meigs County 911 by dialing 911 or for non-emergincies 740-992-6663; or the Meigs County Sheriff’s Office at 740-992-2271 until phone service is restored.
Contact Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155 Ext. 2551.