- Lauren Pack Staff Writer
Nearly a year after an arson killed Hamilton firefighter Patrick Wolterman, the charred Pater Avenue house remains standing and unchanged.
Plywood covers the windows of the two-story residence belonging to Lester and Bertha Parker. Yellow crime scene tape still blocks anyone but investigators from entering the yard of 1310 Pater Ave. Traffic cones remain in place, preventing parking near the home, and a reward poster with Wolterman’s photo is displayed on the front door and on a porch railing.
“Nothing has changed. Can’t do anything until they find out who did it,” said a neighbor of the home who requested to not be identified, saying only: “don’t want to get involved.”
That arson last December was one of an estimated 23,000 structure fires intentionally set in 2015 across the country.
That number represents an increase of 21.1 percent of intentionally set structure fires over the year before, according to a report released in September by The National Fire Protection Association. These fires resulted in an estimated 205 deaths, an increase of 30.6 percent from 2014.
Wolterman, 28, was on the first floor of the home fighting the fire when the floor collapsed and he fell into the basement.
His death was ruled a homicide by the Butler County Coroner’s Office. He died of smoke inhalation, according to the coroner’s report.
Investigators, including Hamilton police and fire and the state fire marshal’s office, remain tight-lipped about progress in the case.
“I won’t comment on the ongoing investigation other than to say that I have the upmost confidence in (the Hamilton Police Department) to find the person or persons responsible for this horrific crime,” Scott Scrimizzi, Hamilton’s director of public safety, told the Journal-News, adding that a $25,000 reward is still available for anyone with information that leads to an arrest.
“There is no doubt that our hearts were broken, but our resolve is strong,” Scrimizzi said. “The members of (the Hamilton Fire Department) continue to do their jobs and continue to serve this community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
Lindsey LeBerth, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Commerce/state fire marshal’s office, said the investigation is not completed.
The Parkers, who still live in the neighborhood, could not be reached for comment. Wolterman’s widow, Bre, did not respond to requests for comment.
This year in Butler County, several large fires have been attributed to arson.
Middletown police are investigating a fire on Nov. 8 at a home on Jacoby Avenue as arson. Tiffany Hoskins was found dead on the second floor of the house after firefighters knocked down the blaze.
Ross Compton, 59, is facing felony charges for allegedly setting fire to his Middletown home on Sept 19 and causing $400,000 in damages.
And Hamilton police say a fire that caused $500,000 in damages to three stores in Hamilton Plaza on Nov. 1 has been ruled arson.