5 arsons believed to be work of same suspects
By David Skolnick
Five suspicious fires within a few blocks of each other on the city’s West Side are believed to be the work of the same arsonist or arsonists, Fire Investigator Capt. Kurt Wright said.
The fires occurred in the same area in the span of about two hours and 10 minutes early Wednesday, he said. The fires caused heavy damage, he said.
“They’re all arsons, and I believe it was the same person or group of people,” Wright said. “I believe it is juveniles.”
The fires were at four vacant houses and a business’ storage shed.
“There was significant damage to all of the structures,” Wright said.
The first fire was reported about 2 a.m. at a storage shed at Schulte’s Thrift Yard, 1648 Mahoning Ave., Wright said. The fire caused heavy damage, he said.
That was followed by a fire about 2:20 a.m. at 1611 Wellington Ave., and then at 3:15 a.m. by fires at 1812 Midland Ave. and across the street at 1815 Midland Ave., Wright said. The last two fires were set about the same time, but the fire at 1815 Midland was in the back so it took a few minutes for firefighters to realize there was another fire, he said.
The last fire was at 1529 Midland Ave. at 4:10 a.m., Wright said.
There were no injuries, but after a very busy night, Wright said, firefighters “were definitely dragging.”
In addition to the five fires Wednesday, there were four suspicious fires last week in the city.
The city fire department has struggled financially because of escalating overtime costs. That’s resulted in Fire Chief Barry Finley deciding to close stations on a rotating basis when there is a shortage of manpower.
However, Wright said all of the city’s fire stations, including No. 3 on Belle Vista Avenue on the West Side, were open Wednesday.
Anyone with tips or surveillance footage of the fires is asked to call the department’s arson tip line at 330-782-0055.