NEWBERG, Ore. (KGW) — A deadly fire that destroyed a 33,000-square-foot building in Newberg earlier this month was ruled as arson Thursday, according to Newberg-Dundee police.
The person suspected of lighting the fire, 46-year-old Ricardo Cornejo Garcia, died in the flames, police said, adding that he was believed to have been in a mental health crisis, intoxicated or a combination of both when the fire happened.
On April 10 around 2 a.m., first responders received a call from a man who said he was having a medical issue. He claimed to be at the “garden center” at the Fred Meyer in Newberg, then made unusual statements about “vampires” being after him, police said.
He eventually told the dispatcher he was “going to start a fire.”
Officers did not find anyone at the Fred Meyer and instead saw smoke coming from the DCI International building across the street to the west. DCI International is a family-owned company that manufactures dental supplies.
Police said the building was quickly overcome with flames, prohibiting search efforts from first responders. The search was further delayed for several days “due to the extreme hazards left behind at the collapsed structure,” police said.
On April 18, police located Garcia’s remains among the rubble of the burned building. His cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation.
“It is believed that Garcia, while in mental health crisis, may have perceived that he was at the Fred Meyer Garden Center, prompting him to give the wrong location during his initial call,” police said in a news release.
Police said he then “forced his way into the DCI building” and started the fire. The building was a total loss.
Police said Garcia had been wanted and initially provided an alias to the 911 dispatcher when he called.
“This case can only be summarized as an unfortunate tragedy, stemming from the underlying behavioral health issues affecting so many Oregonians every day,” police said. “Our thoughts go out to the family of Mr. Garcia and to all the people negatively impacted at the DCI company.”