Massive factory fire in Marion being investigated as arson

marion fire archive footage

MARION, Ind. (WISH) — The massive fire and explosions at the former RCA Thomson consumer electronics plant in Marion on Saturday night is being investigated as arson.

Investigators say it could have been a tragedy.

The building that caught fire was storing 100 fire extinguishers. Just two of those extinguishers caused the two explosions that sent four firefighters to the hospital for hearing issues.

The other 98 fire extinguishers — some weighing as much as 100 pounds — also stored there could have caused incredible damage and potentially killed firefighters.

Brian Eckstein, a fire investigator from Marion Fire Department, says if the head — the top of the fire extinguisher — had been knocked off during the mayhem, the extinguisher would have become like a projectile missile, putting the firefighters inside and anyone outside nearby in incredible danger.

Fortunately, the fire department’s quick response prevented the fire from spreading and the pressure from rising, Eckstein said.

Nearby residents described hearing everything Saturday night, not knowing what could have happened.

“I heard some booms, but I thought they were big trucks. I didn’t think there was anything that could explode,” said Rose Nelson, who lives nearby.

The fire caused about $250,000 in damage.

This is the fifth major fire at the building complex since the Thomson plant closed in 2004.

The day the company laid off hundreds of employees, on March 16, 2004, a fire started that was also investigated as arson.

Former employee Jose Garcia was accused of setting it.

Then in 2005, two separate explosions occurred: one in August and one in October.

One worker died in each of those fires, which both started as salvage contractors were working on the building to get it ready for resale.

And in June of 2007, a crew doing demolition work accidentally started a fire.

They thought they’d put it out, but it flared back up later that night. The fire burned 300,000 square feet of the old plant and evacuated some nearby homes.