The explosion witnesses heard was probably a tire blowing up, a firefighter said.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- Fire investigators have ruled out arson as the cause of a fire that destroyed a Federal Express truck at Eastwood Mall early Tuesday evening.
Fire Lt. Dave Danielson said they think the fire started in the engine compartment of the the truck, which was parked in an alcove near the J.C. Penney entrance facing Eastwood Expo Center.
"We think the fire was in the engine and then moved to the cab of the truck," Danielson said.
"The explosion sound witnesses heard was probably caused when a tire blew up.
"We had our investigator come out, and he did not find any evidence of arson," Danielson said.
The driver was inside the mall making deliveries when the fire erupted around 5:45 p.m.
Looking for answers: Danielson said officials are trying to determine what sparked the blaze.
Mall security officers said they saw black smoke coming from the vehicle and called the fire department. Firefighters were on the way when the truck tire blew.
& quot;We were walking out of the mall, and I smelled something burning and saw black smoke, & quot; said Corey Flowers, 17, of Bristol.
"All of a sudden, we heard a large explosion."
Corey and his friend, Evan Hubbard, 16, of Warren, said they couldn't see the truck but they saw "huge flames."
"There was black smoke everywhere," Evan said.
Toni Vasquez, a hairdresser at Fiesta inside the mall, said she also heard a pop.
"I ran outside and could see flames going over the trees," Vasquez said.
David Petrilla and his family had just pulled into the mall parking lot.
"We heard one large boom," Petrilla said. "We just waited in the car until everything was over."
Others said they saw flames shooting up past the mall roof.
Authorities said an out-of-state man arrested at the scene likely had nothing to do with the fire but may be facing unrelated charges.