Social services fire was arson, officials say

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By AMY LINDBLOM

Tuolumne County fire and sheriff's department investigators have no leads into who deliberately started fire a late Sunday evening at the Social Services office on North Cedar Road in Sonora.

The fire destroyed a four-wheel-drive truck, a storage shed and items stored in the shed. Kent Skellenger, Social Services Director said that after looking over all the damage, the fire cost his department $24,431.57.

In addition to destroying the truck, used by a welfare fraud investigator, four other vehicles were damaged but repairable.

When firefighters arrived, the shed and truck were fully engulfed and threatening nearby cars and buildings.

According to a Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department report, two melted jugs of Hillyard Deep-Action carpet cleaner were found next to the burned truck.

Another gallon jug of the same cleaner was found next to two more vehicles parked on the north side of the burned truck. The solution had been poured over the hoods of both cars.

The report said a fuel line had been cut on a fourth vehicle, and an empty gallon jug of Clorox bleach was found next to the car. The gas cap on a fifth vehicle was open and a plastic hose had been inserted into the tank.

Skellenger said the carpet cleaner and bleach were apparently taken from the storage shed, where the housekeeping crew keep janitorial supplies.

Eight computer printers stored in the shed were consumed by the fire.

"We've had random acts of violence in the past, but we have no idea who might have done this," Skellenger said.

Tuolumne County District Attorney Investigator Keri Ford is working with both the Sheriff's Department and CDF investigators on the fire.

Anyone with information is asked to call California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Battalion Chief Richard Imlach at 532-0821, or the Crime Hotline at 984-1911.

Contact Amy Lindblom at alindblom@uniondemocrat.com .

11703379
The Union Democrat
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