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AJ auto fire was arson

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SHERRY LONG
The Ellis County Press
FERRIS - The fire that ripped through AJ Auto earlier this month was the work of an arsonist, according to investigators.

State Fire Marshall Investigator Ed Cheever would not say who he was looking at as a suspect, but said it was not the dealership's owners.

'I believe the fire was intentionally set,' he said.

'There was no indication the fire was set using an accelerant and there is no indication of any involvement with the electrical system.'

Instead of one large building, AJ Auto used several metal buildings adjunct to one another for an office, auto repair shop and body shop.

Cheever said the fire started in the dealership's offices and small storage area before spreading into the main garage building where auto body repairs were made.

Annette Nell, co-owner of the dealership with her husband John, said there were five vehicles in the building damaged from the heat and smoke, instead of the actual fire.

Reopened for business, the Nells were using a travel trailer lent by family friends for an office until their old office could be repaired.

'We didn't have insurance on the building or contents, but we had insurance on the vehicles,' she said.

'I didn't think a metal building could burn.'

Any suspects charged with arson, a second-degree felony charge, could face up to 20 years in prison.

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