Part-time Employee Puts Building Materials Store on Fire | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Part-time Employee Puts Building Materials Store on Fire

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Inside the store, which was charred black. It is evident that the entire merchandise was destroyed by the fire.The entire building is eerily sooty, and some of the walls are peeling off. The interior was charred black, and most of the merchandise was ruined. Smoke was rising from the flammable goods.


The fire broke out at the Ken Depot Soka Sezaki store, a building material store in Soka City, Saitama Prefecture, shortly around 5 p.m. on June 13. The fire was contained about 13 hours later, at 6 p.m. on June 14, but when this magazine’s photographer visited the scene the next day, the store was in a raw state.

The store was completely destroyed by fire. The building is a one-story reinforced concrete structure with an area of about 1,971 square meters (about the size of a junior high school site). The fire also spread to a nearby house. The store is a membership shop. At the time of the fire, the restaurant was open for business and there were more than a dozen employees and several customers inside, but fortunately no one was killed and a 42-year-old female staff member sustained only minor injuries from smoke inhalation.

Working at the store until just before the fire.

Matsuzawa, the arsonist.The cause of the fire was arson. The fire was set by Tatsuya Matsuzawa, 32, a part-time employee of the restaurant. On the day of the incident, he was working at the store until 5 p.m., just before the fire broke out.

“The suspect Matsuzawa started working at the building materials store about a year ago. He had a quiet personality and was not the type to make much of an impression. On the day of the incident, he was working from noon, taking out products and making rounds. He was very familiar with the store and had probably planned in advance where he would set the fire. He told the police that he started the fire in the work shoes section, which was not captured by the security camera.”

Based on the testimonies of employees and customers, the suspect Matsuzawa, who left the store in an unusual manner, emerged in the line of investigation. The motive for the crime was appalling. He told the police that he did it because he was stressed at work.


On the day of the incident, the wind was blowing at a maximum speed of 8.9 meters per second. One wrong move could have resulted in a catastrophe involving the surrounding residential area. Takao Sakaguchi, executive director of the Citizen’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute, points out the dangers and precautions to be taken in the event of a fire in a large store.

“Stores such as home centers are large and contain many flammable items such as plastic products and wood. Large quantities of paint, thinner, and other items classified as hazardous under the Fire Service Law are also placed there. Once a fire starts, there is a danger of the fire spreading explosively. It is a similar situation to gasoline burning.”

“Upon entering the restaurant, you should check the location of emergency exits and make sure you know the evacuation route. Smoke contains toxic gasses. If a fire breaks out, you should evacuate by covering your mouth with a handkerchief to prevent smoke inhalation.”

The police are working with the fire department to investigate the scene with a view to possible trouble between employees.

The exterior of the building materials store. It is noticeable that the walls have been burned and peeled off.
The day after the fire was extinguished, firefighting staff and the police were still inspecting the scene.
Numerous fire trucks were at the scene.
  • Photographed by Shinji Hasuo

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