Stamford restaurant fire probably arson

Stamford’s fire marshal said an early-morning fire that tore through a Chinese restaurant in Stamford Tuesday and caused extensive damage is now being treated as arson.

Fire Marshal Charles Spaulding made the announcement after a state fire accelerant sniffing K-9 attached to the Office of the State Fire Marshal detected flammable liquids around where the fire began in the kitchen of Pearl East restaurant at 2720 Summer St.

Spaulding said the official determination of the fire won’t be made until further investigation and the state forensic laboratory analyses what exactly was found by the dog in the kitchen area about six hours after the blaze began, just before 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“We are going to address this as an act of arson and though we still have more to do in terms of the investigation we are proceeding along the lines that the fire was an intentional act,” Spaulding said.

The blaze at Pearl East restaurant at 2720 Summer St. was called in at 4:31 a.m. and when firefighters got there it was fully engulfed in flames.

Police are also taking an active role in the investigation and collected the evidence found at the scene by the dog.

Lt. Diedrich Hohn confirmed that the dog hit on something that may have started the fire.

Hohn said that the fire apparently started in an alcove on the north side of the building next to the kitchen area, which is where the dog apparently found the traces of what was used to start the fire.

Police property crimes investigators are looking into the fire with the fire marshal’s office, but Hohn said the property owners and business owners have not raised their suspicions. He said the business appeared to be prosperous, and Spaulding agreed.

“From our office, we are treating this as an arson,” Hohn said.

Hohn said another fire –this one already determined to be an arson- was set at a Sushi X II at 109 Atlantic St., sometime in the early morning of May 18, -just eight days ago.

At that fire, someone broke through a screen at the restaurant and poured gasoline into a rear stairwell and lit it on fire. The fire, however, did not catch and did not cause any real damage to the restaurant.

Police found a Gatorade bottle containing gasoline on the Sushi X property.

Hohn said two arson fires in eight days at Asian restaurants did not sit well with him and there may be something more to it than mere coincidence. “We are looking at every angle,” said Hohn, adding that as of now there is nothing to connect the two fires except for their cause.

Spaulding said the owners told him that the restaurant was open until about 10:30 p.m. Monday and was scheduled to be closed Tuesday because restaurant staff had a personal event to attend.

Spaulding said his investigators determined where the fire started by examining burn patters inside the building.  He said that the interior of the building will have to be gutted and all the contents replaced.

The kitchen was destroyed and smoke and soot damage was seen throughout the rest of the restaurant, he said.

“For sure this is not over in terms of our investigation,” Spaulding said.