UPDATE: Suspicious blaze chases families into a winter storm


The Woodstock Police Force and the Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating a suspicious blaze Saturday evening, Jan. 29, which chased two families from their home on Union Street in downtown Woodstock.

Woodstock Fire Department Chief Harold McLellan said his crew responded to the fire call, which came in at 6:56 p.m.

McLellan said the building contained upstairs and downstairs apartments. He said he knows two people were home in the downstairs apartment when the fire started, but he’s unsure about the upstairs unit.

“No one was there when we made our run-through,” he said, adding the building’s occupants were away from the scene when he arrived.

Woodstock Police Chief Gary Forward confirmed police arrested and remanded an adult male to custody until a bail hearing at 1:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 31.

He said the fire displaced at least three persons.

McLellan said he talked to a representative of building owner SJR Enterprises, adding the structure appears to be a total loss.

Firefighters responded to the fire in the heart of a severe winter storm featuring heavy snow and high winds.

McLellan praised the efforts of the Woodstock public works crew members, who kept the streets plowed to provide access to the scene.

“At one point, I had snowplows coming from both directions,” he said.

The chief also praised his crew of volunteer firefighters, noting 18 members responded to the fire scene in the middle of the severe winter storm.

He said firefighters initially attacked the blaze from the exterior, but they switched to an interior attack as more crew members arrived.

McLellan joined investigators from the fire marshal’s office and the Woodstock Police Force at the fire scene on Sunday morning.

The fire marshal’s office investigator used what the dog handler called a “hydrocarbon dog,” trained to “sniff out accelerants.”

McLellan said the Woodstock Police Force would provide details about the ongoing investigation.

Forward praised the fire department and asked anyone with information to share it with the police.

“The Woodstock Police Force would like to thank the Woodstock Fire Department for their exceptional response and follow up to this crime,” Forward said. “Anyone with information in connection to this crime is encouraged to contact the Woodstock Police Force with our thanks in advance.”


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