CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The fire that destroyed the century-old Cleveland Chair Co. building early Dec. 8 has been ruled a "set fire," Cleveland Fire Department Arson Investigator Donnie Sullivan said Thursday.
"We do think it was a set fire, in the nature of somebody trying to keep warm," Sullivan said.
He said there is evidence on the concrete floor of fires being started inside the building over a long period of time.
"We didn't see any signs of criminal activity," Sullivan said. "It was probably vagrants."
He said no traces of accelerants were found in the ruins.
Temperatures on the night of the fire a week ago were below freezing, according to the fire department.
Cleveland Fire Department and state Arson and Bomb Squad members spent two days this week going through the rubble left by the destruction of the three-story building.
If evidence of a crime should emerge later, Fire Chief Steve Haun said, an investigation would be reopened.
"But it was the opinion of the Bomb and Arson Squad and Donnie that it was probably an incendiary fire that somebody set for warmth," Haun said.
Sullivan said no human remains were found in the debris, which was searched by cadaver dogs.
Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...