HANFORD — After months of investigation, the Hanford Fire Department has determined that arson was responsible for the fire that destroyed the historic Vendome Hotel building last July.
Authorities believe the fire was set inside the building in the Hanford TechCom LLC computer store. The early morning blaze displaced six businesses and led to the demolition of the 121-year-old building at the corner of Irwin and Eighth streets.
Hanford fire Capt. David Sumaya said investigators have identified a person of interest in the case and will continue to investigate other possible persons of interest.
Sumaya said investigators with the Hanford Fire Department and the Hanford Police Department spent months making sure their case would be strong enough to hold up in court if an arrest is made.
“Arson is a very difficult crime to get a conviction on,” Sumaya said. “It’s even harder than murder.”
Sumaya could not disclose additional details because the investigation is ongoing.
Investigators had determined within days of the fire that it had originated in the computer store.
“That was the only part of the building that had actual fire in it,” Sumaya said.
Sid Sharp, who owns the property where the Vendome building once stood, said he was not surprised by the conclusion.
“We felt all along that there was a good possibility it was arson, just from the information I was given,” Sharp said.
Sharp said he wasn’t aware of anything in that part of the building that could have sparked the fire naturally, including wiring. He declined to provide additional details.
Sharp has been working with Clovis-based architect Ron Marlette to develop plans for a new building that is heavily influenced by the original as it appeared in the early 1900s. Marlette filed a site-plan review with the city earlier this month.
Hanford TechCom opened its doors in late 2010, with store owners Mossie Kines and Manny Paredes touting affordable computer troubleshooting and virus cleanup services.
Kines has since relocated to Paris, Texas, where he serves as youth director for the First United Methodist Church. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Hanford Fire Department is asking anyone with information in the case to call the Hanford Police Department at 585-2540.
The reporter can be reached at 583-2458 or by email at meiman@HanfordSentinel.com.