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BLAZE IN MIDVALE BUILDING IS SUSPICIOUS, OFFICIALS SAY

A Thursday fire that gutted an historic building on Midvale's Main Street appears suspicious, officials say.

An investigation into the cause of the $250,000 fire at 18 N. Main continued Tuesday, with materials recovered for lab testing, Midvale Fire Chief Merrill Ross said. Ross declined to elaborate about the details that make the fire suspicious, but did say that investigators have spoken with several witnesses.City development services director Skip Criner said the next step is to determine the future of the site, primarily what to do with the burned-out building. At present, cream-colored tile pillars are almost all that remains of the original double-story brick building that opened in 1910 as the Golden Rule Store, a forerunner to J.C. Penney. The site is now fenced, and bricks from crumbling walls litter its interior.

Options include removing what remains of the structure and improving the site as to not detract from the downtown business district. The remaining wreckage could also be secured virtually as is for future development, with any new structure built into what remains of the historic shell, Criner said.

"It's been partially demolished," he said Tuesday. "We're cleaning the site and securing it . . . that will probably be completed today."

The Main Street strip was quiet Tuesday morning as area businesses regained some order. At the Comedy Circuit, the proprietor and co-owner, who goes by the moniker Spin, said he was unsure of the future of the burned-out building to the north, property his partnership also owns.

"It's a little bit premature to decide exactly what we're going to do," he said. "I'd love to build something there and have it be something that would be complimentary to the Comedy Circuit. But you don't know . . . I have to sort of play it by ear.

"My first priority is to make sure (city officials) are satisfied with their investigation," he said.

He was surprised at the possibility the fire may have been intentionally set.

"I thought everybody was our friend at the Comedy Circuit," he said.