Officials hunt for suspected arsonist after local bar burns

Last update: 23 July 2003

EDGEWATER -- A fire that gutted the interior of Earthquake Magoon's bar over the weekend has been ruled arson.

According to State Fire Marshal Investigator Alan Kaye, the blaze deliberately was set behind the bar of the building on West Park Avenue early Saturday morning. However, he could not provide any details about what sparked the fire.

"We are currently looking for suspects," he said.

Edgewater police did arrest a man for interfering with firefighters trying to battle the flames.

The police report said Jose Angel Acosta, 26, Edgewater, was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting an officer with violence after he tried to get firefighters to move to the back of the building.

The report said Acosta told police and fire crews that his brother was inside the building.

After several warnings to back off, an officer dragged Acosta back to the sidewalk. Officers said they were forced to use a Taser electric stun gun to subdue the suspect.

After his arrest, Acosta was taken to the Branch Jail and released Sunday after posting $1,500 bail.

Edgewater Fire Capt. Steve Cousins said his crew was awakened at about 5:19 a.m. Saturday by a man ringing the doorbell of the fire station.

"He said there was a fire at Earthquakes," Cousins said. "When we got there, flames could be seen coming out of an exhaust vent and through the front window."

Firefighters put water on the vent flames, then broke out the front window to gain access to the rest of the building. After knocking down the initial blaze, crews forced their way into neighboring businesses in the strip mall to see if it had spread to them. Only minor smoke damage was reported.

"The interior of the bar was a total loss," Cousins said, estimating the damage at $125,000.

The investigation into the crime is continuing.

-- Mark I. Johnson