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‘Intentionally set’ Midwest City fire could be accident

BY JOHNNY JOHNSON Modified: April 15, 2009 at 4:51 am •  Published: April 15, 2009
MIDWEST CITY — Five days after a fire destroyed an estimated 70 homes in the Midwest City and Choctaw areas, investigators say they don’t know whether the search for the fire’s cause will turn into a criminal investigation.

Midwest City Fire Marshal Jerry Lojka said officials are confident the fire was intentionally set, but that doesn’t mean its spread was intentional or it was set with malice.

Investigators have ruled out any normal accidental causes, he said.

"Any fire investigation involves a process of elimination,” Lojka said. "And once you can eliminate the accidental causes, it allows you to move on to something else. This was a people-set fire. The question is exactly how and why. Honestly, it may have been a mistake, but we don’t know that yet.”

Lojka said he could definitively say there was no welding or any other industrial activity that could have started the fire, but there were numerous other possibilities, including everything from setting a fire for cooking to lighting incense at a "hideaway.”

"If there were people who were hanging out there for any reason in an abandoned mobile home, motor home or a bus or whatever else that was burned out there, they may have lit a fire and it got out of control,” Lojka said. "That was intentionally set but without malice.

If investigators determine the fire was intentionally set but its spread was accidental, Lojka said, responsible individuals could still possibly be charged with negligence, but probably not arson.


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