AIKEN, S.C.—A Carlisle Tire and Wheel Co. employee has been arrested and charged with arson for allegedly starting a fire at the company's Aiken wheel manufacturing facility Dec. 8. Danny M. Fields, 29, of Trenton, S.C., is being held without bond in the Aiken County Detention Center.
Firemen were called to the complex twice on Dec. 8, but they doused the two blazes before any significant damage occurred.
Mr. Fields, who was apprehended the following day, also is a suspect in two other fires at the site Nov. 19.
Lt. Michael Franks of the Aiken County Sheriff's department said at this point Mr. Fields, who has a prior conviction for arson on his record, only has been charged with setting the second Dec. 8 fire.
Law enforcement officials believe Mr. Fields set a ball of tape on fire and tossed it into cardboard boxes filled with small tires and wheels for farm, garden and lawn-care equipment, which are mounted on wheels at the Aiken facility for delivery primarily to original equipment customers.
Investigators believe the two Nov. 19 fires started under similar circumstances. The second blaze that day destroyed a 100,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and its contents, causing losses estimated at more than $15 million.
About 30 fire departments responded to that fire, which took two weeks to extinguish completely. Officials also instituted an advisory ban on drinking water for area residents, schools and businesses. There was concern that chemicals in the runoff from the fire site may have contaminated the water supply.
``We use a lot of temporary employees because of the cyclical nature of our business,'' said John Kiehl, Carlisle vice president of sales and marketing. He said Mr. Fields was brought into the plant as a temporary employee in early October, and the company was not aware of his prior arson conviction.
Mr. Kiehl said Carlisle may build a new warehouse on the foundation of the one that burned. ``If the pad is OK, we should be back in the warehouse in February,'' he said.