A fire that broke out at Palmer Fest Saturday and led to the evacuation of thousands of festgoers has been ruled as an arson.
The Division of State Fire Marshal has ruled the fire as an arson, according to a news release from the agency.
"While determining the cause of a fire, investigators eliminate causes as they go," said Shane Cartmill, spokesman for the Fire Marshal's office. "Investigators eliminated all accidental causes."
The investigation determined that the person or persons who set the fire gained entry into the basement forcibly, Cartmill said.
Because the investigation is ongoing, Cartmill said he could not speak about specific details about how and where the fire started. He declined to comment about rumors of a window being kicked in and of cigarettes causing the fire.
“This fire put the lives of partygoers and the firefighters at risk. What may seem like a harmless prank could have led to several injuries or even death," said State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers. "This is a very serious matter and we need to find the person or people responsible for this fire.”
The fire caused moderate damage to the house with the basement sustaining the most damage, according to the release. Of the four units in the building, fire spread to units B and C and units A and D had smoke and heat damage.
An award of $5,000 is being offered to anyone with information leading to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the fire, according to the release.
Investigators strongly believe someone has information about this fire because of the number of people in the area at the time of the incident.
The Fire Marshal's office is working with local law enforcement to develop leads and find suspects, Cartmill said, adding that many interviews will be conducted by the end of the investigation.
Cartmill declined to comment if any leads or suspects have been found, but confirmed that tips had already been made to the office.
"Some people think that investigators may already know some small piece of information and won't call it in," Cartmill said. "But that small thing could be exactly what investigators are looking for."
Anyone with information should immediately call the Division of State Fire Marshal at 1-800-589-2728.