Fire causes $1.1 million damage to IPI

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2001

It was business as usual Friday for Interstate Packaging, Inc.

Saturday, May 05, 2001

It was business as usual Friday for Interstate Packaging, Inc. (IPI) despite an early morning fire that caused more than a million dollars in damage, representatives say.

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&uot;We continued to ship (Friday), and plan on continuing shipping,&uot; said IPI representative Dave Wolter.

IPI staff are talking with insurance investigators and cleaning up the mess left by the blaze, but are not yet sure what kind of damage was sustained, he said.

&uot;We are still in the process of looking at it,&uot; Wolter said.

Two former IPI employees were arrested Friday for allegedly starting the fire in the warehouse and trashing the IPI office area at 1851 Margaretha.

Randy Allen Merril, of 29, of 512 Larimore Circle and Jay Ervin Frank Becker, 25, of 629 Larimore Circle, were charged with first-degree arson, first degree criminal damage to property, and second-degree burglary. Bail was set at $100,000 for each.

Merril and Becker allegedly started the fire in stacks of boxes, using a wick soaked with rubbing alcohol. They are also accused of ransacking the office and employee break room, tearing up time cards, going through lockers, throwing tables and chairs, and irreparably damaging a box-labeling machine valued at $100,000.

&uot;When we got tot he fire scene, there was graffiti all over the building,&uot; said Albert Lea Police Assistant Chief Dwaine Winkels. &uot;We knew it was arson.&uot;

The Albert Lea fire department responded to the fire call at 2:54 a.m., said Chief Rich Sydnes.

&uot;It was just full of smoke,&uot; Sydnes said. &uot;We tried to make entrance to the building, but it was too full of smoke.&uot;

The fire department had the blaze under control in about three hours, but didn’t have it completely extinguished until 9 a.m., he said.

The fire marshal estimated damage at about $1,100,000.