A preliminary investigation into the cause of a fire that partially destroyed Grass Mountain Chateau on Saturday found that the blaze was probably lit by arsonists, the Taipei City Fire Department said yesterday.
Traces of light aromatics, one of the ingredients of gasoline, were found on the northwest side of the chateau's restaurant and evidence indicated the fire began outdoors and spread into the building, Fire Department Commissioner Hsiung Kuang-hua (
"Light aromatics were found over one-third of the area where the fire started. It was very likely arson, but we need more evidence to prove it," Hsiung told a press conference at the department yesterday.
Hsiung said the department had not found any items at the fire's source that could have started the blaze, such as electronic devices or cigarettes, which also led them to suspect arson.
"The fire became fierce and burned down a large part of the chateau in only 15 minutes. A small area of origin for a fire should not cause such a big blaze, and so we suspect the fire was caused by a foreign substance," Hsiung said.
Commenting on the preliminary investigation results, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) expressed sadness that the destruction may have been a caused by arsonists and urged the public not to damage monuments.
"Grass Mountain Chateau is a historical monument. It's okay to criticize a historical figure, but please do not shift the anger to the monument. It's innocent," Hau said yesterday at Taipei City Hall.
The chateau, located in Yangmingshan National Park, was built in 1920 as a vacation home for Japan's Prince Hirohito and later became a summer retreat for dictator Chiang Kai-shek (
Hau said he had demanded the police department investigate the possible arson case.
The police department said it was investigating but did not have any suspects at this stage.
The buildings main exhibition hall, with an area of about 660m2, and the exhibits inside the chateau were destroyed in the fire, prompting pan-blue camp members to express suspicion that the blaze might be related to the Democratic Progressive Party's recent anti-Chiang campaign.
Commissioner of Taipei Department of Cultural Affairs Lee Yong-ping (
The department will invite academics and architecture experts to inspect the chateau today to discuss the restoration, Lee said.
The cost of restoring the chateau to match its original architecture, together with the cost of remaking replicas of its exhibits, could total NT$36 million (US$1 million).
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