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Kobe fire ruled arson

January 29, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE and BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writers

An early-morning fire Saturday that destroyed the popular House of Kobe Japanese restaurant on Dual Highway was deliberately set, the Hagerstown City Fire Marshal's Office said Wednesday.

The fire was set in the rear of the 757 Dual Highway restaurant, causing extensive damage to the building, fire officials said.

Fire officials had no damage estimate Wednesday.

"We're investigating everything at this point," said Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

No witnesses had come forward, Hawbaker said.

The restaurant's owner, Massy Hirai, said Wednesday that he was shocked and angered to learn the blaze was intentionally set.

"I was so disappointed," he said. "I was surprised and shocked. It makes me more angry I hope very soon, the fire marshal will catch the guy."

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Hirai said he has no idea who could have wanted to sabotage his restaurant, adding that he had a good relationship with all of his employees and patrons.

Hirai said he wants to rebuild quickly, but has not yet located a place. Officials have said it would take months to rebuild on the same spot.

Hirai said he needs to move quickly.

"I have very good employees. I don't want to lose them," he said. "I have to do something real quick."

Fire officials say anyone who was in the area between 4 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. last Saturday and has information about the fire may call the fire marshal's office at 790-2476.

Callers do not have to identify themselves when providing information, officials said.

The fire was reported at 4:44 a.m. Saturday after a Hagerstown couple who had been delivering newspapers spotted flames coming from the rear of the restaurant. There were no injuries.

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