Motor Oil Warehouse Fire Declared Arson


The Iowa State Fire Marshals office said that investigators are treating the Oct. 26 fire at a Stern Oil Co. facility in Council Bluffs as an intentionally set fire until determined otherwise.

Investigators concluded the cause of the fire was not related to a Ford pickup truck parked in front of the business. The State Fire Marshals Office and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are waiting for final laboratory results before concluding the exact cause for the fire. They continue to conduct interviews and seek potential witnesses. Witnesses who provide information leading to an arrest and conviction will be eligible for a reward of up to $15,000.

The fire is believed to have originated in the northeast corner of the interior of the building, an area that was used as offices, the fire marshals office said in a statement. Investigators further believe the fire may have started long before the first 911 call that was received at approximately 4:25 a.m. At this point the investigation has proven difficult as it appears this may be the random act of a single individual.

The fire destroyed an 11,250-square-foot warehouseowned by South Dakota-based motor oil distributor Stern Oil Co. Scott Stern, vice president of Stern Oil, said estimated damages exceeded $1.5 million. He said the warehouse had 24 storage tanks, ranging in size from 1,100 gallons up to 13,000 gallons each.

Stern said the fluids stored at the warehouse, predominantly were engine oils, hydraulic fluids, gear oils, greases, and some cutting fluids. He said the oil involved in the fire was predominantly ExxonMobil brands. The warehouse also handled some Petro-Canada fluids and Caterpillar fluids. The companys client base consists of car dealerships, quick lubes, repair garages, fleets, construction companies and industrial manufacturing plants.

The investigating agencies include the Iowa State Fire Marshals Office; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF); and the Mills County Sheriffs Department.

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