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Decatur Fire Department determines fire at gender clinic was intentional

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Decatur Fire Department determines fire at gender clinic was intentional

The Blair Building suffered an unspecified amount of damage on Oct. 30 following a fire. A reporter saw burn marks and a boarded up window from the street when they visited the site on Nov. 1. Photo by Zoe Seiler

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur Fire Department confirmed on Jan. 26 that a fire at a gender clinic inside a historic building was intentionally set.

As first reported by Decaturish, records show that fire investigators were probing whether an arsonist targeted a gender-affirming medical clinic at the historic Blair Building on Oct. 30, 2023. The city denied our request for police body camera footage from the incident, citing an ongoing investigation. Decaturish has continued to press the city for the release of this information.

Here’s the full statement from the Decatur Fire Department:

On the morning of October 30, 2023, the City of Decatur Fire Rescue Department responded to a structure fire at a commercial office building located at 215 Church Street in downtown Decatur. This historic building is commonly known as the Blair Building.

Fire crews extinguished the fire upon arrival. The fire was contained to one office and no injuries were reported.

After a full investigation, the fire incident has been determined to be incendiary in nature, indicating that the fire was intentionally set. However, the identity of the individual or parties responsible is unknown.

The city is collaborating with federal and state agencies to investigate this incident. The City will continue to work closely with these agencies to investigate and solve this crime.

The Blair Building is a pink-painted structure located at 215 Church Street behind Twain’s restaurant. It’s home to several medical providers, including QMed/QueerMed, which specializes in “gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary individuals.”

A Decatur Police report indicates QMed was the victim of the Oct. 30 fire, which is being investigated as a first-degree arson, which is a felony. The report contains several images that have been redacted.

The city has not immediately respond to a question about whether this is being investigated as a hate crime, but the involvement of state and federal investigators suggests that is a possibility. Georgia enacted a hate crimes law in 2020, and its protections extend to LGBTQ individuals. People convicted of a hate crime would face stronger penalties under the new law.

The Decatur Fire Department has been tight-lipped about the investigation. Decaturish only learned about the fire after receiving an anonymous tip. A reporter visited the scene and saw the damage to the building on Nov. 1. The fire department did not initially confirm the Oct. 30 fire had occurred, and only confirmed it after Decaturish published a story about it this fall.

QMed declined to comment, but the clinic confirmed an employee submitted a hate crimes report to the FBI and was told the incident is under investigation.

In 2022, Gene Kansas Commercial Real Estate announced a modernization and renovation project for The Blair building. Kansas purchased the building in 2021.

The Blair Building was constructed in 1939 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building spans 12,500 square feet and two floors. It has been an office building for over 80 years and all the offices have been leased to a variety of companies. According to the Blair Building website, the building is a “stunning example of Streamline Moderne architecture and one of only two buildings of its kind in the city.”

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