Fire was set around 5:30 a.m. on December 12

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — An arson caught on surveillance significantly damaged a Salem business but the perpetrator remains at large.

The owner of the business, Phil Gerstner, told KOIN 6 News the arsonist is “a danger to the community.” Gerstner said the fire at Lighthouse Home Loans forced his staff out of the building and destroyed nearly everything inside.

“You just wonder what’s going through that person’s mind,” he said. “When we actually checked the video surveillance cameras we saw that a person walked up, intentionally set the fire, and walked away.”

The surveillance video from around 5:30 a.m. Monday, December 12, shows a person setting fire inside a trash can by Lighthouse Financial Enterprises in West Salem. The flames quickly spread throughout the building, damaging Gerstner’s business and others.

This man is wanted for setting a fire at a West Salem business, December 12, 2022 (Phil Gerstner)
This man is wanted for setting a fire at a West Salem business, December 12, 2022 (Phil Gerstner)

“We were lucky the building was unoccupied. No one was injured, either my staff or fortunately any of the firefighters,” Gerstner said. “But if he did that to a residence and that fire got started, I have a much greater appreciation for the danger of fire and how fast things can happen.”

Gerstner said the blaze caused them to close off the building and forced his staff to now work remotely. Though the business is expected to survive the damage, he said they are still tallying how much the damage will cost them in repair.

“We haven’t found him yet. We’ve been looking, but so far we haven’t found the person,” he said. “So the next step is basically to get a good estimate, then they’ll do demolition, and we’ll rebuild.”

Authorities say the arson investigation is ongoing, but are asking for the public to report tips to 503.588.8477.

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