ENID, Okla. - A family-owned business was burned to the ground in a matter of minutes just a couple months after opening. Now the owners and investigators are determined to find out who's responsible, and they're hoping surveillance video will help.
It happened Friday morning at about 5:25 a.m., fire officials called Beth and Preston Whiting to let them know their bar, P&T's On Independence was on fire.
"It was already engulfed in flames," Beth said. "I thought it was something I did. Maybe I didn't shut something off the night before, anything like that, and it just kept going through my mind."
She and her husband had been renovating their newly acquired bar for months, pouring thousands of dollars and man hours into the work.
"Entire life savings," Preston said.
Then it finally opened in November, but it barely had time to get off the ground before it was brought to ruin before their eyes.
Then a neighboring business' surveillance video revealed it evidently wasn't something left on overnight. The video shows a man sneaking around the building just a few minutes before the fire was reported. He's caught approaching the rear of the building holding a plastic jug and some sort of tool, then he disappears for about eight minutes. When he reemerges, he's seen hiding from a passing truck before fleeing.
A few minutes later, the inside of the building collapsed in flames.
The fire marshal said that in addition to the video, there was other evidence from the fire scene that suggested it was arson.
"We really don`t believe it was directed at us," Preston said. "We believe it was directed at other things that have to do with the building from the past."
The fire marshal said the building was built in 1937, and had gone through several different owners from that time. But right now, they don't know why someone would set it on fire.
Meanwhile, the first time bar owners don't know how they'll rebuild without fire insurance they thought they had.
"We want to re-open, we just don't know if we can," Beth said.
The fire marshal is asking anyone with information about the fire or the man seen in the surveillance video to contact the marshal at (580) 234-0541.
A gofundme account has been set up to help the couple rebuild the bar.