As the investigation continues into a fire that gutted a vacant office building in Tempe, police questioned on Thursday four vagrants who were caught at the scene.
The men were found inside the Apache Business Plaza, 1000 E. Apache Blvd., when emergency crews first responded to Wednesday afternoon’s blaze.
Arrested and booked on suspicion of misdemeanor trespassing were Jeffrey Gillard, 47; Jermaine Black, 28; Louis Kisto, 42; and Kevin Morse, 43.
But authorities believe the men may have been more than merely present on the property.
“Clearly, this fire is very suspicious in nature,” Tempe police spokesman Mike Horn said Thursday.
The two-story building had been vacant more than a year, and police and the property owner said transients had been a problem there despite a chain-link fence surrounding the property.
The blaze erupted at 3:50 p.m. in an upstairs room, Tempe fire spokesman Mike Reichling said, and within minutes a pillar of smoke stretched hundreds of feet into the cloudless sky.
Because of the fire’s intensity and the knowledge the building was scheduled for demolition anyway, firefighters did not immediately attack the blaze. Instead, they assumed a defensive firefighting posture.
Directly to the building’s east, more than two dozen guests evacuated a Super 8 motel.
Some of the motel’s roof shingles were dislodged by fire hose water pressure.