Donated furniture used as fuel in arson attack
An after-hours donation to help the Palmerston North Salvation Army's Family Store could have cost the store everything after a couch and a bed left outside the building were set alight.
Palmerston North firefighters were called to the Church St store at about 3.45am yesterday. They requested police assistance after the fire was deemed suspicious.
The couch and bed were left against the side of the building after the store shut on Monday.
Store manager Rodney Fletcher said CCTV footage from the store's security cameras reveal a young man walking to the furniture, which he appears to light before walking away.
The flames could be seen on the couch, he said. The fire leapt up the wall of the building, blistering the paint and breaking a small window.
The store's phone had to be re-routed to his cellphone as the cables melted in the heat.
The wooden window frame would have to be replaced, and the telephone lines had to be fixed, he said.
Fletcher said he was thankful the only damage to the inside of the store was the smell of smoke.
"I still can't believe that the curtains inside didn't catch on fire."
He said the situation was also disappointing as the store had a five-day-a-week pick-up service, where the organisation would collect donated items for free from around the city, as well as Ashhurst and Linton. Leaving things outside the store out of hours was not a good idea, he said.
Ninety per cent of the time, items left outside the store as "donations" were rubbish people didn't want to pay to get rid of.
However, he had not seen the items before they were destroyed by fire, so he did not know if that was the case this time.
The fire comes a month after the store had two of its large display windows broken in two acts of vandalism - one was smashed with a rock, and another cracked after it appeared to have been kicked.
"It's just not something we need at this time of year, or any time really."
Senior Sergeant Brett Calkin said police wanted to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious in the area about the time the fire started, or who saw the fire itself.
Anyone with items to donate to the Salvation Army can call the store and it will arrange a time to collect them.