EAST PALESTINE — A local firefighter who broke his shoulder while fighting a fire on West Main Street earlier this month is still recuperating from his injuries, fire Chief Joshua Brown said on Tuesday.
Brown and police Sgt. Don Johnson said they hope that someone can come forward with information that will help in the investigation to find the person or persons responsible for setting the fire that destroyed the vacant home.
“We are still looking for answers. I am hoping we are able to come up with a suspect,” Johnson said.
They both emphasized that anyone who provides information that can help lead authorities to whomever is responsible will be eligible for a reward up to $5,000 through the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee.
People are asked to call the fire department at 330-426-4341 or the state at 1-800-589-2728.
Brown did not identify the firefighter who remains off duty for now because of the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act.
That firefighter and another firefighter were both injured when they fell into a large hole that gave way as they were attempting to get out of the way of glass from a window that blew out as a result of the fire.
Brown has said the hole appeared to be the result of an eroded culvert. On Tuesday, he said the property owner is responsible for the hole.
The other firefighter who was injured was back on full duty for the fire department shortly after, while the other firefighter remains off duty for now.
“As a volunteer fire department, any loss greatly impacts the entire team,” Brown said of the difference one person can make on a department already struggling with skeleton crew since most people have full-time jobs and aren’t always available.
Although considered volunteer, all of the village’s firefighters and EMTs are part-time paid on-call employees, and as such receive Bureau of Workers’ Compensation benefits.
“It’s always a huge hit when you’re down a person,” Johnson said.
He said the departments have spent a lot of time investigating the case, but additional help is needed from the public.
“I’m hoping we can get some kind of tip to help us find who is responsible,” Johnson said.
Brown also said the department is still investigating a fire that damaged a shed at the Unity Township baseball fields.
Until this month, the department had not had a suspicious fire since the one on East Taggart Street in December of 2014. However, Brown said an investigation determined that to be accidental.