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Arson blamed for campus-area blaze

By Audrey DeAnda
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 4, 1999
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UA officials are unsure if they will still purchase a campus-area building that was gutted early Saturday morning in an arson attack.

Mercy Valencia, UA Space Management director, said the university was in the process of acquiring the building because it sits in an area that the UA wishes to own.

Officials said they planned to demolish the structure because it was in such poor condition, but Valencia said it is unknown if the university will now terminate its plans to purchase the edifice.

Tucson Fire Department Capt. Brian Delfs said the fire, which caused $10,000 in damage to the unoccupied building, 1004 E. Helen St., was caused by a match or a lighter flame near the front door. He added that TFD officials had no suspects or leads for public disclosure.

The house was included in an unidentified man's estate, and the sale was being handled by his attorneys.

Two University of Arizona Police officers first noticed the blaze at about 1:55 a.m. when they spotted smoke coming from the eves and roof of the facility.

Flames destroyed one room, while other areas sustained damage from the smoke and heat, Delfs said.

He added that the floor of the entire house was buried in three feet of garbage - creating some health and safety issues.

"After the blaze was extinguished, firefighters and UAPD officers were only allowed a limited amount of time in the house because of the possible exposure to communicable diseases like hepatitis," he said.

UAPD Cmdr. Brian Seastone said there was evidence that transients had lived in the building, adding that numerous homeless people were spotted in the area. Police reports indicate that in November, UAPD officers went to the building and evicted transients who were living inside.

"They were specifically camping out there early in the year," Seastone said.

When officers arrived in November, there was no damage, but a tremendous amount of garbage strewn throughout the house, reports stated.

Since UAPD boarded up the windows and the doors to keep the transients out, there had been no sign of re-entry, reports stated.