Jan. 3, 2013
Tim Dewar email@example.com
Anyone who mailed a letter at the Ojai post office between Monday at 5:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. will have to try again.
US Postal Service investigators say someone dropped burning material of some kind in the after-hours collection box Tuesday shortly before 4:30 p.m. when the fire was reported. According to Ventura County Fire Department spokesperson Mike Lindbery, 23 firefighters from stations 21, 22 and 23 responded to the call and were able to extinguish the fire within a few minutes of arriving.
All of the letters in the collection bin were destroyed and a portion of the nearby walls and ceiling were damaged.
“This was a great job by the firefighters to knock it down before it spread further,” Lindbery explained. “Had it started at 3 or 4 in the morning it could have been a completely different outcome.”
Postal inspector Tracy Putnam said Thursday it is still unclear exactly what was used to start the blaze and no arrests had been made. Ventura County Sheriff’s Detective Mike Harris said Thursday they have identified a suspect and are continuing to investigate.
“We hope to have something more next week, but we won’t know much more until after we have been able to interview the suspect,” Harris explained. Then, he said, is when they hope to have a better idea as to a possible motive and exactly what charges will be filed.
Putnam noted that although destruction of postal property is a federal offense, if the investigation turns up other crimes that carry a greater penalty, they would seek to charges the suspect with those as well.
Ojai Postmaster Greg Pace said the counter was open and operating again Wednesday afternoon. Although the doors were locked Tuesday night, preventing access to the post office boxes in the lobby, he said everything is back to normal with the exception of an after-hours collection box. For the immediate future, customers wanting to leave mail after the counter closes will have to use the collection boxes on Ojai Avenue at North Montgomery Street or those in the city parking lot at Signal and Matilija streets.