Middletown plans more security measures for warehouse site destroyed by huge fire

A recent fire on the property of the former Middletown Paperboard facility remains under investigation.

Middletown firefighters responded to the vacant warehouse just after midnight April 16 to a small block building on the site at 300 S. Verity Parkway near Girard Avenue. Fire Lt. Frank Baughman said flames were visible coming out of small building on the northeast corner of the property when firefighters arrived.

The fire was knocked down quickly and firefighters were on the scene about 90 minutes. There were no injuries.The structure involved was a small detached garage and that the fire was contained to that building. Baughman said items were found inside indicating someone had been staying in the structure and other signs of foot traffic around the site.

The fire is being investigated as arson. Anyone with information is asked to call Baughman at 513-425-7996.

The Jan. 1 fire burned for days with more than 100 firefighters at a time battled the blaze. Investigators arrested a homeless man, Joshua Lamb, who said he was living in the building when a fire he started spread to his bedding. A Butler County grand jury indicted Lamb on charges for arson, a fourth-degree felony, and aggravated arson, a second-degree felony. He remains in custody at the Butler County Jail and his case is pending in Butler County Common Pleas Court.

Acting City Manager Susan Cohen said the city plans to fence around the property to try to keep intruders out but that has been delayed due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that prevents a group of people walking through the site before seeking bids. She said the property is “unique” and will require different types of fencing around the large site.

In February, she told council an estimated 1,900 linear feet of fencing would be needed at a cost of $37,500.

The 11-acre site of 61 parcels is located at 300 S. Verity Parkway and had an estimated 400,000 to 600,000 square feet of space. The city spent more than $130,000 for a demolition company to come in to move debris to assist firefighters in putting out burning and smoldering hotpots as well as for firefighter overtime to fight the blaze that burned for days.

Cohen said the informal estimate to demolish the site was between $1.5 million and $2 million. That did not include the costs to remediate the site and that would depend on what was found there. She said the city would have to seek grants from the state to cover remediation costs but there has been no word on state monies for demolition.

Crews previously boarded up windows and doors and put up fencing following a 2018 fire to deter people from entering the building, Cohen said.

BP Logan LLC owned the property until the State of Ohio seized it in a tax foreclosure suit on Jan. 10. The state transferred the property to the Butler County Land Bank on Jan. 13, the same day the land bank transferred to the city of Middletown.

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