Squatter Charged with Setting Fire to Vacant Camden Warehouse

A female squatter set fire to a vacant Camden warehouse Tuesday night following a lovers' quarrel, according to authorities. But officials do not believe she played a role in other recent warehouse fires in the city.

Tammie Shipp, 35, was charged Wednesday evening with aggravated arson in connection with the two-alarm blaze at a former paint manufacturing plant at Sixth Street and Carl Miller Boulevard in Camden's Waterfront South section.

Shipp, who had set up living quarters at the warehouse -- vacant since 1996, when Clement Coverall Co. stopped operating –– is accused of using a lit cigarette to ignite paper under a mattress following a dispute with her boyfriend, who was present at the time.

Neither Shipp nor the boyfriend was injured in the fast-moving fire.

Authorities do not believe Shipp is connected to last month's string of warehouse fires, which remain under investigation by local and state law enforcement agencies and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

"The motive here was a kind of revenge on her lover," said Camden Police Chief Scott Thomson.

Shipp is being held at the Camden County Correctional Facility on $126,500 bail.

The first two warehouse fires were a 12-alarm blaze on June 9 that started in a former tire-distribution center near the city's Parkside section and an eight-alarm fire on June 11 that gutted a former garment factory in Waterfront South.

The June 9 fire damaged 23 buildings, 10 of them occupied. More than half of the buildings were severely damaged, and 16 families lost their homes.

The third multi-alarm warehouse fire, on June 19 at a former detergent plant in East Camden, has been ruled arson by the ATF, which sent a team to assist Camden officials in combing through evidence. No arrests have been made.

Because of the suspicious nature of the fires, local, state, and federal agents have created an Arson Task Force. Six Camden police detectives are on the team.

Following Tuesday's fire, which was reported about 10 p.m., officers canvassed the neighborhood and received tips that Shipp lived in the building.

Shipp, who was known to police for previous drug- and prostitution-related offenses, was apprehended Wednesday in an alley near the 1700 block of Broadway. She was charged with arson in connection with the fire and charged with aggravated assault for an unrelated July 2 incident in which she allegedly cut a woman's face with a box cutter behind an abandoned home at 518 Carl Miller Boulevard. She faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted of arson.

Though at least one arsonist remains at large, Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said it was good to get "some closure" on one of the warehouse fires.

"It provides a bit of a sense of relief," said Helene Pierson, executive director of Heart of Camden, a nonprofit group involved in redevelopment of Waterfront South. After Tuesday's fire there was "greater concern" in the neighborhood, which has at least one other large, vacant warehouse, Pierson said..

The ATF has offered a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the East Camden fire. Anyone with information is asked to call a hotline at 1-888-283-3473.


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