Fire officials say Salty Nut blaze intentionally set, seeking person of interest

picture of a man seen in Salty Nut Parking lot on January 6, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH)â?? Fire investigators say a Friday morning blaze at a Columbia restaurant was deliberately set.

A fire that occurred early Friday morning gutted the Salty Nut Café in Columbia's Five Points. Fire crews were called to the scene around 4:30 a.m. after reports of
black smoke coming from the roof of the building.

More than 30 Columbia firefighters and six fire trucks brought the blaze under control. The fire caused an estimated $300,000 in damages.

Fire officials say surveillance cameras captured an image of someone they call a "person of interest" near the restaurant shortly before the fire.

"Right now we are in the process of trying to locate this person and try to get some answers as to why this fire started," said fire chief Aubrey Jenkins.

Authorities say the last workers left the restaurant around 2 a.m. and no injuries were reported.

SLED is assisting Columbia fire officials with their investigation.

Authorities urge anyone who recognizes the person in the photos or has information about the fire to call the South Carolina Arson Hotline at 800-92-ARSON (800-922-7766). Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a reward.

Salty Nut Cafe Fire