The Delaware State Fire Marshal's office announced today that arson was the cause of the fire that destroyed the Fairways Inn topless dance club near Smyrna July 4.
The nightclub, owned by Willis Duckery, is located at 4167 DuPont Parkway (Route 13) near Garrisons Lake south of Smyrna.
The blaze was reported shortly before 5 a.m., according to Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio. The business was closed at the time.
When firefighters from Citizens' Hose Company arrived on the scene, flames were shooting from the two-story building, according to Fire Chief Isaac Hankins.
"There was heavy fire coming from the front of the building in the bar and club area, and heavy smoke coming from the upstairs apartments and offices," Hankins said.
The blaze took about an hour to get under control, and firefighters remained on the scene for another couple hours to find any hot spots in the charred debris, and to assist officials from the state fire marshal's office.
Smyrna's fire company was assisted by the Leipsic and Cheswold fire companies, and American Legion Ambulance 64.
"They were a great help to us with their manpower," said Hankins. "It was a large fire with very intense heat because of the structure of the building. We had to open holes in the roof before we could get inside."
Because of the club's proximity to the highway, northbound Rt. 13 was closed for about two hours while firefighters were on the scene, Hankins said.
One firefighter suffered minor problems because of the heat, but there were no other injuries, Hankins said.
The fire marshal's office estimated the damage at $400,000, according to Chionchio.
Hankins said there was heavy fire damage to the bar and club area on the first floor, while the upstairs offices and apartments had heavy smoke and heat damage.
After an investigation, the state fire marshal's office has determined that the fire was intentionally set, Chionchio said. Investigators are asking anyone with information in this case to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) TIP-3333 or call the Office of the State Fire Marshal at (302) 739-4447. Callers can remain anonymous.
The emergency was quite a way to start the Fourth of July for members of Citizens' Hose Company, most of whom still marched in the Independence Day parade in Clayton later that morning.
"Most of the guys had to hurry up and get cleaned up for parade, while some guys stayed back to clean and prepare equipment for the next call," said Hankins. "It shows the tremendous dedication of the members. They'd been up early that morning to respond to this call and fought a very difficult fire, and then they went right back out for the parade to show their support for community and their country on the Fourth of July."