|By ANN HINCH
KNIGHTSTOWN, Ind. — A couple of small fires at the Knightstown Elevator, Inc. last week, suspected to be vandalism, came as a surprise to employees.
Michael Gerrish, an employee from nearby Grant City, said a co-worker called him at 7:15 a.m., March 9 to tell him about the fires.
“I thought he was playing a joke on me,” Gerrish said. “I didn’t think he was serious.”
The damage consisted of burn and smoke marks on the outside of the elevator’s business building on Grant Street.
One location was in front at the customer entrance, where the white wall and underside of the metal roof were singed; another was at the side, consisting of blackened marks on the building and a broken pane of glass where it is believed fuel such as gasoline might have been poured inside.
“We really can’t tell anything from what debris was there,” said owner and manager Mark Haase, though Gerrish said he checked unsuccessfully along the old railroad track running alongside the business for any gas cans.
Haase said police contacted him about the property damage that morning. The best estimate is this occurred between 10 p.m., March 8 and 3 a.m., March 9.
The elevator has been under Haase’s father’s ownership, then his, for about 40 years. Haase said the business hasn’t had any vandalism “for a while” and it’s never been of this nature.
“Every so often you might have a break-in, but nothing like this,” he said.
Knightstown Police Officer Dan Denny made his incident report at about 4:30 a.m., Friday.
He said the matter is under investigation and would only say some type of accelerant was used to set the fire – which apparently extinguished on its own – and that the department has a few suspects.
There have been “a couple” of other acts of vandalism in town lately, he said, but none fire-related, and none at businesses. “I think it was a childish prank,” Denny said of the elevator incident. “I don’t think anybody meant to burn the elevator down.”
Knightstown Elevator buys and grinds corn and soybeans and manufactures animal feed. At certain times of the year the elevator is kept busy at all times of day, but when nobody’s there, Haase said the premises are well-lighted.
“I don’t know that you could do a whole lot more” to deter crime, he said.