Investigators believe Memorial Drive fire deliberately set
by Tim Kane
Site of burned businesses deemed a crime scene
By Daniel C. Boyle
Turley Publications Correspondent
SOUTH HADLEY – Fire officials are investigating what they believe to be a suspicious fire on Memorial Drive that occurred on April 29.
Jennifer Meeks of the fire marshal media information office confirmed investigators believe the fire was deliberately set.
The site of the fire seriously damaging three businesses has now been given the designation of a crime scene by South Hadley District 2 Fire Chief Bill J. Judd.
The businesses – Hadley Mart, In Vogue Hair Salon and Ichiban Restaurant – of 2098, 2092 and 2090 Memorial Drive respectively, are all located under the same roof and went up in smoke together on Thursday night.
“As soon as we realized we had a crime scene, we arranged for a South Hadley police officer in a cruiser to be stationed there,” explained Judd. The cruiser was seen parked outside the convenience store all of last weekend.
Before it was described as a crime scene, preliminary reports from fire investigators indicated the cause was electrical and originated in the Hadley Mart.
Investigators from the South Hadley Police Dept., South Hadley Fire Dept., State Fire Marshal’s office and the Mass. State Police toured the structures and, at press-time on Thursday afternoon, the Town Reminder was awaiting the results of the fire probe.
Quick action on the part of a neighbor most likely prevented all three businesses from being completely gutted, according to one business’ owner.
“As I understand it, the dog belonging to a man who lives nearby started barking, and when its owner went to investigate, he saw smoke coming from the building and notified authorities,” said Sophia B. Parnicky, owner of In Vogue. “When I arrived at the scene shortly after 11 p.m., I saw the fire department breaking down the door to my business and black smoke billowing out, and I saw them cutting through the roof. I was sure I was going to be out of business,” she said.
Coincidentally, earlier on Thursday, employees of In Vogue became concerned when they arrived at work and smelled a strong odor of smoke. Later, when the salon owner arrived, she went next door to investigate the smoky smell and “to say I was going to call the fire department,” said Parnicky. “I was told there had been a small fire and that they had taken care of it.”
In Vogue closed around 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and the fire was discovered shortly before 11 p.m. that night.
In the case of In Vogue, the business sustained smoke damage, lost one day of business and had to make adjustments regarding its tanning services.
“All I could think about were the customers who had appointments with us and had special occasions planned over the weekend,” said Parnicky. “South Hadley High School was having its prom and I knew the girls wouldn’t be able to make other appointments at so late a date. Other clients had a wedding and a first communion to attend. As soon as the fire was extinguished, we started to work on cleaning things up,” she said.
Tom Ollari, of Complete Restoration Solutions in Chicopee, is overseeing the cleaning and restoration of all three businesses. He reported the Ichiban restaurant is expected to re-open this weekend, possibly as early as Saturday, May 8. The Hadley Mart, which was “totally gutted,” said Ollari, will be closed for at least two months.
The property on which the businesses stand is owned by George and Christina Mangafas of Westfield.
Debris is strewn outside of the Hadley Mart, located at 2098 Memorial Drive, which sustained the most damage.
A melted crate is stuck to other burned debris, indicating just how hot the fire was