Lobster trap company offers reward in arson case

Posted April 02, 2009, at 7:55 p.m.

FRIENDSHIP, Maine — A lobster trap company that received nearly $60,000 in damage from arson last October is offering a $5,000 reward for information that will lead to the arrest of whoever is responsible.

“We take this very seriously,” Mike Wadsworth, the CEO of the Friendship Trap Co. Inc., said Thursday. “If the fire had gone in any other direction, we could have lost the whole factory.”

Officials from the Office of the State Fire Marshal have determined that on the night of Oct. 30, one or more people set fire to 85 rolls of lobster mesh wire that were stored outside the factory. The bales of coated wire would have taken a lot of effort to ignite, said Sgt. Ken Grimes of the fire marshal’s office.

“You had to work at it to get it to go,” he said.

The same night, the company also was the target of criminal mischief that had lasting consequences. The company’s diesel fuel shed was broken into and “a few hundred gallons” of oil were intentionally spilled on the ground, Wadsworth said. Friendship Trap had to work with the Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the mess, which contaminated the company’s well.

Grimes said that while investigators have tracked down a number of leads and spoken to “a great number of people,” no arrests have been made and the investigation remains open.

“At this particular point, a reward may generate more leads for people to follow up on,” Grimes said.

Arson is a Class A felony in Maine, on par with rape in terms of the severity of consequences for those convicted of the crime, he said.

“Arson is a violent crime. It’s a crime against property and a crime against persons,” Grimes said. “All fires start small. As they progress and move and consume, after a while, you can’t control them. People get hurt, property gets lost and people can die. We take it very seriously.”

No one was hurt in the Friendship Trap fire, but in addition to the destruction of about $43,000 worth of wire rolls, it’s disturbing to think that someone wanted to do damage to your business, Wadsworth said.

“We’re feeling the economy like everybody else, and right on the heels of a bad autumn, lo and behold, we get this fire,” Wadsworth said. “We’re looking to discourage this kind of behavior with us or with anybody else. It’s just not acceptable.”

Friendship Trap Co. has made custom lobster traps for 32 years and employs about 30 people, he said. About 50,000 traps are manufactured each year in the factory at the southwestern tip of Knox County and are delivered to places as far away as Canada and Maryland.

Wadsworth hopes the reward will provide arson investigators with useful information.

“We would like to find the person or persons responsible for this and get a conviction out of it,” he said.

Anyone with information on the arson fire may call the fire marshal’s office at 888-870-6162 or Wadsworth at 542-0841.

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