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Razing of former drugstore follows two suspicious fires in East Aurora

Demolition crews are tearing down the former Thomas drugstore on Main Street in East Aurora after two suspicious fires within six days damaged an apartment house at the rear of the vacant building.

The first fire at 398 Main St. was reported just before 12:30 a.m. Aug. 17. Police initially said they considered it suspicious and likely caused by teenagers.

Investigators have no doubt that the second fire, which occurred just before 1 a.m. Aug. 23, was arson.

"It was terrible it happened the first time and terrible it happened the second time," said Kimberly M. Bingman, property manager for Linwood Estates LLC, which owns the structures. "The first fire shouldn't have happened, and the second fire shouldn't have happened. The whole thing is unfortunate."

Bingman said the decision to demolish the structure was a result of roof damage. Building Inspector William R. Kramer concurred with the decision.

"It's pretty dangerous to have it the way it is," Kramer said. The owner had previously wanted to demolish the store, he said, but the village rejected that request without a specific development plan in place. Asbestos-abatement plans had be finalized before demolition could begin this week.

Bingman estimated the value of the damaged property to be around $200,000, but official figures were not readily known. She said the company hopes to eventually redevelop the property. The former Thomas location became an Eckerd drugstore in recent years, before that, too, went out of business. Linwood Estates of Boston has owned the parcel since 2005.

In the first fire, on Aug. 17, witnesses flagged down police and pointed to smoke coming from a window in an apartment attached to the storefront. According to police reports, investigators said they believed that juveniles entered the building and started a fire in the upstairs apartment on a small table, which then spread throughout most of the apartment.

The inside of the building was covered with graffiti, including "South Grove Originals" and "$G" spray-painted on multiple walls.

When police responded to a call of a working fire Aug. 23, they arrived to find smoke coming from the roof of the residential building. Large, rolling flames were coming from the northernmost room of the rear of the building. The rear and west doors of the residential building were both open. A neighbor was evacuated.

County fire investigators and local police determined that the second fire was arson. Two cans of spray paint found at the scene were seized as evidence. They were found in the building's southwest room, which included graffiti.

East Aurora police are asking anyone with pertinent information to contact their confidential tip line at 652-5404.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com

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