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WEST FARMINGTON Arson spree shocks town; juveniles suspected



Published: Mon, July 23, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The fires were all set within a 2-block area.

By STEPHEN SIFF

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

WEST FARMINGTON -- Investigators suspect juveniles may be responsible for an arson spree over the weekend that had volunteer firefighters chasing after nine fires in a period of four hours.

Two cars were destroyed by the arsonists Saturday morning. Two homes, a store with upstairs apartments, a storage building and another car were damaged, officials say. Several trash fires were also set, all within a two-block radius in the center of the 517-person village.

"The whole village is completely in an uproar," said Mayor Allen Patchin. "Everyone is in shock."

The Farmington Township Volunteer Fire Department was alerted to the first fire by a 911 call at 2:37 a.m., said Fire Chief John Dale. A truck arrived at 131 E. College to find flames on the outside wall of Pebbie's Country Store, a retail building with seven apartments upstairs.

While there, the firefighters noticed that fires also had been set in a yard behind the building and nearby elementary school yard.

More calls: Two firefighters drove around the area, and the calls started coming in: Flames from a 1988 Chevrolet Caprice parked in the driveway of 205 E. College had already spread to damage a car parked beside it; a Dodge pickup parked on 161 E. High St. was destroyed; blazing porch furniture set at 270 N. Second St. damaged the home's vinyl siding; the last fire, against an exterior wall of a storage barn behind 230 N. Sheridan, was discovered at 5:30 a.m.

The next morning, another homeowner, at 217 E. College, discovered that his lawn furniture had been set on fire but burned itself out, Dale said.

Accellerant: An accelerant was used to set the fires, Dale said. A dollar-loss estimate was not yet available.

Investigators from the Trumbull County Sheriff's Department and the state fire marshal canvassed West Farmington on Saturday, hoping to find anyone who saw fires being set.

Although some of the fires would seem to have been set even as others were being put out within earshot, no witnesses have been found, said Bob Sharp, an investigator with the fire marshal's office.

"Nobody saw nothing," he said. "It is unbelievable."

Some from a group of juveniles who have already been in trouble with the village may be responsible, Sharp said.

Tipsters are being asked to call (800) 589-2728. A $5,000 reward is being offered, Sharp said.




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