Reward offered in Coconut Charlie's arson fire

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jul 31, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-01 07:12:09-04
Last call at Coconut Charlie's and the first call to respond to the fire came just an hour apart, and Owner Chris Welsh was looking on when the fire threatened the life of a firefighter.
"The morning I was here, I watched that fireball come out and that guy hit the ladder and fell down," said Welsh, "What if this happened while people were here?  As I said earlier, Cancun Cantina a few years ago.  The place was full of people."
Inside the building, there are stripped walls, charred furnishings and a gutted ceiling---extensive damage, which could shut down the business for months.
"I heard $200,000,” said Welsh, “I don't know where they came up with that figure from, but my personal opinion, not from anybody that's told me, just knowing things, I'd estimate it at about $750,000 to $800,000 between the whole building, contents, everything."
It is a loss made even more difficult to take with the news that someone set the fire intentionally, and adding insult to injury---someone broke into the burned out building and burglarized some of the few valuable items, which survived the flames the following day.
"The following morning they got it,” said Welsh, “They came through my neighbor's fence, pried this open, had tools with them.  Obviously, it could have been the same people.  Possibly.  Maybe they came back with what they needed to get in and stole some TVs, some liquor."
Investigators are stepping up their search for the arsonist who set the fire putting a price on any tip, which cracks the case.
"The ATF has joined us and we've put up a $5,000 reward and we're just looking for anyone who may have information," said Capt. Russ Davies of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
But for now, justice is far removed for those who counted upon the business for their employment and now find themselves out of work. 
"The employees---toughest thing right there.  I said that from Day One,” said Welsh, “They're the ones that lose out of this too and they have bills to pay.  They have families.  Yes.  A couple of them have jobs, but I have a couple staff that this was their life.  This was their paycheck.  Hopefully, they find out who did it as fast as possible and they never see the light of day again."
Welsh says plenty of people have taken cheap shots at him on social media suggesting he may have set fire to his own business.
To those people, he says he just put $25,000 into improvements inside the business, and it makes it all that much more important that investigators find the person who is actually responsible for setting the fire.