Fire at County Building, Arson Suspected

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WILKES-BARRE -- A fire closed the Luzerne County Children and Youth headquarters Monday morning and investigators say someone likely set the fire.

The headquarters for the Luzerne County Children and Youth Services in Wilkes-Barre never opened Monday because of that a fire in a back office.

The district attorney says it is likely that someone set it.

Wilkes-Barre police and others investigating the case have interviewed a few individuals but not made any arrests.

No one was in the building at 6 a.m. when the fire broke out in the back of Luzerne County Children and Youth Headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre.

"Based on the circumstances, this is an active criminal investigation," said Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis.

The D.A. says the fire appears to have been deliberately set.

"We are looking at a few people, we have some people in mind, but at this point, I can't say much more."

The investigation is focused on the back of the building where one single office window is shattered. It is there that investigators say the fire started.

Fire officials say the building's sprinkler system contained the damage to a small area.

The building never opened, leaving those who had business with Children and Youth nervous when they learned of the fire.

"I was wondering what was going on," said Debora Kocher of Nanticoke. "I was a little scared to go in there for a minute"

"You never know what could happen around here, so wait and see what happens. Hopefully, whatever happened, they prosecute them," said Steve Kocher.

Some Children and Youth workers answered phones and did work from other locations.

Police spent the day searching and questioning individuals to find out who set the fire and why.

"It's an active investigation, and as we have more information, we will be able to provide it," said Salavantis.

County Manager Dave Pedri says he hopes the building will open Tuesday. If that can't happen, Pedri says there is space in other county office buildings where workers could relocate until this building, which is now a crime scene, can reopen.

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