Theater fire serious

On Tuesday, local firefighters responded to an incident that could have had a tragic outcome.

Cumberland Trail Fire District Lt. John Yemich said firefighters responded to a fire alarm at the AMC movie theater at the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville at 10:16 a.m. that day. When they arrived, they discovered a smoldering fire on a curtain behind the screen in the first theater inside the venue.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and no major damage occurred as a result of the small blaze.

“It was mostly out when we got there. One of the curtains close to the floor is what caught fire,” Yemich said. “We called the state fire marshal … to determine the cause and origin.”

Officials with the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire was an act of arson. It was intentionally set by someone, but no arrests have been thus far.

That individual — or individuals — are lucky in many ways. The fact that the fire was set before the venue opened for business on Tuesday is good for them and for employees and customers of the business. The timing of the incident meant that no one other than the apparent arsonist was present who could be injured. In addition, Yemich said there was no major smoke or water damage to the venue, as the damage occurred only on the curtain. Only that particular theater had to be temporarily closed, not the entire venue.

Yemich noted the cinema’s fire system detected the fire and firefighters were automatically dispatched via 911. That also could be a stroke of good luck for whoever ignited the blaze. A quick response was likely key in limiting the damage.

In addition to Cumberland Trail, firefighters from Barton, Wolfhurst and Neffs, along with ladder trucks from Martins Ferry and Bellaire, responded. The Belmont County Sheriff’s Department also was at the scene.

Regardless of the fact that no long-term harm was done, the incident cost time and resources. It also presented a serious threat to human safety and to the mall property.

If an arsonist is identified in this incident, they should be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.