TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Investigators with the Tucson Police Department are searching for at least one person connected to a suspected arson fire at the American Legion Cocio-Estrada Post 59 in Barrio Hollywood early Wednesday morning.
The fire happened just after 3 a.m. April 8 in the post’s storage shed, Officer Ray Smith, a spokesperson for the department, said. Crews with the Tucson Fire Department initially responded and controlled the blaze within 10 minutes of their arrival, Michael Collaiani, a TFD spokesman, said in an email.
Fire investigators with Tucson police are collecting evidence and reviewing surveillance footage, but community members are asked to share any information they may have with TPD.
Tipsters who give information leading to an arrest, Smith said, can earn a $10,000 reward.
Though no one was hurt and the post’s main building was not damaged, Anna Marie Arenas, treasurer for post 59, said the fire is a big loss for the American Legion Community.
“Besides all of our supplies that we had there, from our flags to our safety gear for events, … We lost historical documents and pictures, a couple of walkers and sets of crutches,” she said. “The one that really hurt us is that we had toys leftover in there for our annual children’s Christmas party, which is in December.”
For the better part of seven decades, Arenas said it’s a tradition for American Legion members to collect toys to give to local kids for the holidays. This year, post 59 got a head start on its toy drive, collecting around 100 toys, all of which were stored in the shed and lost in the fire.
“Our legion is driven on dedication and to see something you work so hard for, to maintain and look up to, going down that ladder and have to start over again is hard,” she said.
Accounting for its losses, the post expects damages to cost between $10,000 to $12,000, which hits hard during the COVID-19 crisis.
However, money aside, Arenas said it’s the things lost in the blaze, like the collection of American flags, that hurt the most.
“When we saw the burned flags coming out of the shed, we had tears in our eyes, I just said ‘why would you want to do this?’”