UPDATE: Investigation focuses on burglary, arson

A Tuesday morning fire appears to have been set to cover up a burglary at Smith Jewelers, 110 W. Columbus Ave.


Smoke rolls from the second story of Smith Jewelers as Bellefontaine firefighters worked to put out hot spots from a morning fire. (PHOTO SUBMITTED BY PAT RINEHART ERWIN)

In a joint effort, investigators from the Bellefontaine fire and police departments along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office are looking into the case.

Authorities are not saying how entry was made into the business. Employees of Smith Jewelers were still taking inventory to determine the loss.

Fire investigators continue to work on the origin of the fire.

Damage was limited to the store and the fire didn’t spread into neighboring buildings.

Bellefontaine Fire Chief Andy Fissel said there was a hole burned into the main floor, but it is not yet known if the fire started there or in the basement below.

Around 5:45 a.m. today, a passerby called 911 and reported smoke coming from the building.

Firefighters responded with two engines, a ladder truck and a squad. All off-duty firefighters were called in, Chief Fissel reported.

Smoke was pouring from the building and from the second floor of a west neighboring building. At the rear of the building, firefighters observed the fire working its way into the second story through a window.

However, the window was still cool to touch indicating heat had yet to build up on that level.

The fire was contained within 20 minutes and firefighters spent the next several hours ventilating the structures and checking for hot spots where the fire could reignite.

No damage was reported in the adjacent buildings which house Sheila Minnich’s as yet-to-be occupied law office, Jeff C. Huber DDS orthodontist practice and Artistic Treasures.

Firefighters shut down Columbus to traffic for more than three hours.



ABOVE: A Bellefontaine firefighter walks into Smith Jewelers, 110 W. Columbus Ave., this morning as others continue to review the scene of a fire inside the business. A passerby reported smoke coming from the building at 5:45 a.m. today and the fire was contained to the business in about 20 minutes after firefighters arrived on scene. BELOW: Bellefontaine firefighters start to take off their firefighting gear to begin clearing the scene of Tuesday's morning fire at Smith Jewelers, 110 W. Columbus Ave. (EXAMINER PHOTOS | JOEL E. MAST)