Investigators label downtown fire as arson - WNEM TV 5

Investigators label downtown Byron fire as arson

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BYRON, MI (WNEM) -

WNEM.com has learned what caused the fire that damaged or destroyed several businesses in one Mid-Michigan community. 

Investigators now say the massive fire in Byron was arson.

Crews worked Wednesday night to secure the torched and scarred building in downtown Byron in Shiawassee County.

"It makes me angry a lot, cowardness, I don't know if you call it that, but there's a lot of this stuff that goes on today. We hoped it wouldn't get out here," said Rosemary Lobdell.

People were shocked that arson could hit home. The Michigan State Police Arson Team brought in a K-9 dog that smelled potential fire-starting fluids in an area amongst the rubble.  Investigators examined the spot, and believe there's enough evidence that shows this was intentional. They believe the fire started in an apartment above the restaurant.

"It's a big loss, I mean, real big loss," said Jim Murphy, a Byron resident.

Janelle's Restaurant and the hardware next door are complete losses along with some apartments above.

Cindy McLaughlin and her son drove up from Howell to see the building. Byron used to be home and they said they have a lot of memories growing up that happened at the businesses inside.

"I heard they're going to tear it down, I wanted to see it before they tear it down," McLaughlin said.

Crews will work to see if the building is structurally sound. There are some businesses that escaped the blunt of the blow.

"We're an old town, and that's our only old building, our only original building we have left. Whoever did it, I hope they feel worthless about themselves right now," said Rylee Root, a Byron resident.

But people in this closely-knit community pledge to keep their heads up.

"These are old-time Americans, they don't give up, you know, people just keep going to work and doing what they do, and you know, just like everywhere else, you just rebuild," said Mike Bellows, a Byron resident.

At least nine departments responded to the blaze at around 2:30 Monday morning in the Shiawassee County community of Byron.

A passer-by noticed the fire, and called 911. It took crews 6 1/2 hours to put out the flames, finally gaining control at around 9 a.m. 

The two-story complex where the fire broke out is home to several businesses, including Janelle's restaurant, a salon and a hardware store along with apartments. The exact extent of damage to the businesses and apartments is still unclear, but we are told no one was hurt.

Schools in Byron were canceled for the day because of the fire.

The investigation into arson now rests with the Shiawassee County Sheriff's Office.

Count on WNEM TV5 and WNEM.com for continuing coverage as more information becomes available.

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