Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pizza Man Fire Difficult To Solve

Pizza Man Fire Difficult To Solve

Investigation Took 16 Months
Brendan Conway, WISN 12 News Reporter

MILWAUKEE -- As the iconic Pizza Man restaurant burned in January 2010, the immediate concern was putting it out and keeping it from spreading, but once the flames were extinguished the investigation began.

Experts from Milwaukee Police Department, Milwaukee Fire Department, the state Department of Justice and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives combed the debris and determined it was arson, but it wasn't until this week, nearly a year and a half later that Feras Rahman was indicted.

Greg West, the dean of fire and EMS training at Waukesha County Technical College, said arson cases are tricky to pin down.

"It's not like 'CSI' where you wrap it up in an hour," West said.

One of the big problems with large fires, West said, is the flames often consume much of the evidence and what is gathered has to be tested and then pieced together.

He said that can take a lot of time.

"It's your job to find the proverbial needle in a haystack," said West.

Rahman is accused of starting the fire to collect the insurance on his cafe, which burned down along with the Pizza Man and two other businesses.

Prosecutors have not said how they think the fire started, but WISN 12 News has learned a specially trained dog discovered the source, meaning an accelerant was likely used.

In an exclusive interview the day after the fire, Rahman denied knowing about thing it.

"We have no idea. Nobody knows, not yet," Rahman said in January 2010.

West said cases like this should be a warning to any would be arsonist.

"You might get away with it for a while, but eventually it will catch up to you," West said.

Rahman is not in custody. His first court appearance is set for next Thursday morning.

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