By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — A Prospect Street man avoided jail time last week on an arson charge related to an April 2013 fire at an Oakland Street industrial building and instead was sentenced to a year of probation for a lesser vandalism charge.
Mark G. Colson, 30, had been charged two weeks after Amesbury firefighters knocked down two separate fires on the fifth floor of Durasol Drug and Chemical Co. on April 12. According to the police report of officer Matthew Cunningham, a witness told police she had spoken to Colson earlier that day and he appeared erratic. The same witness told police he entered the building shortly before the fire.
As part of his plea deal with prosecutors, the arson charge was not prosecuted but Colson must stay away from Durasol and pay $50 in fines.
According to Cunningham, one of the fires was started next to a pile of wooden pallets and a box of rubber soles. The second fire was located in a hallway behind a fire door. Cunningham and Amesbury fire Chief Jonathan Brickett, both trained fire investigators, concluded the fires were set deliberately and a police investigation focused on those who might have access to the building.
A search of the fifth floor showed it almost completely covered in paint balls, leading investigators to ask the building’s tenants who might have been responsible. It was during that search for answers that investigators spoke to a nearby neighbor who identified Colson.
Police soon located Colson and ended up talking to him twice before deciding to charge him with arson and vandalizing property. According to Cunningham, Colson told police he fell asleep in the building and had lit incense in the building to “get rid of the devil.”
When police arrived at his residence to arrest him, Colson didn’t go quietly, barricading himself inside and telling police he had a weapon. Police were able to break through the barricade and determine that he was unarmed.
At the time of the fire, Durasol was a locally based company that produced concrete additives, denture adhesive, gum erasers, cleaning solutions, eyeglass cleaners and related products. Just weeks before the fire, Arc Technologies owner Dan Healey announced he had reached a purchase and sale agreement with the building’s owners. Healey planned to gut the entire building and rebuild it from the inside out.