LOWELLVILLE, Ohio (WKBN) – Two men accused of breaking into a Lowellville business and setting it on fire appeared in court on Monday.
Police say Joshua Foor and Geno Moore broke into the closed Aluminum Color Industries early Saturday morning, setting fires in four places.
Bond for both suspects was set at $55,000 each. They are due back in court again later this month to face aggravated arson and breaking-and-entering charges.
“There was a lot of valuables in here, especially scrap [and] tools. It’s hard to determine what someone could determine to be valuable,” Lowellville Police Chief Rick Alli said.
Authorities believe one of the two suspects may have been among the first ones to call 911 to report the fire. In one recording of a 911 call, the caller said he was in the building, trying to put the fire out.
Alli was quick to say the entire situation was not an accident, saying the aluminum processing plant had been closed for about a year.
Fires were set in four different spots inside the building off of West Wood Street, an area where homes are very close to each other and the factory.
Making matters worse, thousands of gallons of acids were being stored at the plant, forcing a call to Mahoning County’s Hazardous Materials Response Team during the fire.
“Had the fire reached those chemicals — and we’re only talking about a short distance of a warehouse — it could have potentially been disastrous for a community that small, that is built that close to that factory. This had the potential to be something that would have put us on the map and put us in history. So, that’s why we’re taking this investigation so seriously,” Alli said.
The chief says he had been talking with the plant’s owners about what to do with these hazardous materials just days before the fire. Ironically, they were putting a plan together to prevent a situation just like this.
“They were coming to my office and had a process already in place to handle everything about the problems there at the plant. This fire came in the middle of that, before we were able to get anything done,” he said.
For now, Alli says the building and its contents have been secured while the arson investigation continues and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency looks into why the chemicals were still in the building, months after it had been closed.