NEW CASTLE FIRES Investigators seek cause of third blaze

A guard will patrol the area in which two of the homes burned Thursday.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- Fire investigators say they need more time to make an official ruling on one of the three blazes that kept firefighters busy Thursday morning.
Two of the fires were definitely arson, said Fire Marshal Eric Weller of the Pennsylvania State Police.
However, they still haven't ruled on the fire at 222 E. Lincoln Avenue because there is a chance it could have been started by faulty electrical wiring, he said.
That home and one of the others that went up in flames early Thursday are owned by the New Castle School District and have been vacant for about a year. The district had plans to raze them to make way for a new city high school.
Now that the homes are damaged, school district officials say they want to raze both houses as soon as possible because they are safety hazards.
Causes: There were no utilities at the home on 321 Reis St., which caught fire at 1:23 a.m. Thursday, Weller said. It's been ruled an arson and fire investigators believe that fire was started on a back porch.
Firefighters became suspicious when a second fire started about a block away at the Lincoln Avenue house just minutes later.
Weller said that home still had utilities hooked up even though it was unoccupied. The blaze started in an area where it could be related to the electrical wiring, he said.
Weller said he is consulting with other fire marshals to try to determine the cause, but they may never be able to make an official ruling.
School officials say a school guard will continue to patrol that area at night to look after the 13 other vacant homes the district owns.
A third, unrelated fire, at 1:56 a.m. Thursday on the city's south side has also been ruled an arson, Weller said. The homeowners and four children got out safely after they discovered the blaze in a second-floor bedroom, according to firefighters.

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