LEWISTON — Authorities on Wednesday continued to track down leads in the Cowan Mill arson investigation.

Two investigators assigned to the case have interviewed nearly four dozen witnesses, said Sgt. Joel Davis of the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

No arrest had been made as of Wednesday night, a week after fire destroyed the historic mill building at Great Falls. Most of the remains have been demolished.

The bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives continues to offer a $5,000 reward to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of those responsible for the fire, Davis said.

Following an arrest or arrests, the case likely would be turned over to the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office, Davis said. If federal charges are appropriate, the case could be handed over to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland.

That’s what happened in the prosecution of two brothers charged with arson in a Lisbon Street fire in December 2006. In that case, they had set fires in buildings they had broken into in an effort to find scrap copper to sell for money to buy Christmas presents, their attorney said. Those fires destroyed four commercial buildings in the city’s downtown.

Although they were initially charged under state law, those charges were dropped later when federal charges were lodged against the two men. The federal charges stemmed from the fact that building owners had received money from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, Davis said. A third suspect in the case, who was a juvenile, pleaded guilty to state charges.

State officials determined last week that the Cowan Mill fire was arson based largely on witness interviews and films of the scene. Because the massive five-story stone building had no electricity and was vacant, there likely was a human element, fire officials concluded. Also, there was no lightning in that area on that day.

Under state law, a person commits arson if he sets a fire that recklessly endangers the property of another person. That means if someone had been trespassing in the mill building and lit a fire that got out of control due to recklessness, that person could be charged with arson.

Davis said his office was aware of the area of origin of the mill fire, but was not releasing that information. He said his investigators have interviewed people who may be people of interest. Investigators are meeting every day to review information from interviews, he said.

Anyone with information about the fire is urged to call Lewiston Police
Department or call the state’s Arson Hot Line at 888-870-6162.   

Crews from Chabot’s Construction Co. continue to demolish the Cowan Mill in Lewiston on Wednesday morning.

Crews from Chabot’s Construction Co. continue to demolish the Cowan Mill in Lewiston on Wednesday morning.


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