Suspected stolen car set aflame behind South Avenue restaurant

YOUNGSTOWN — Investigators think a car that burned up behind the Toyko House Restaurant on South Avenue about 5:30 p.m. today was stolen.

The fire spread to the back corner of the restaurant, which was unoccupied, causing some exterior damage but no injuries.

A woman getting off Interstate 680 onto South Avenue spotted smoke and drove toward the restaurant, 1907 South Ave., and called 911, thinking the restaurant was on fire.

When she got closer, however, she saw it was a car, and it was running with the trunk open and the lights on.

“I was just hoping to God nobody was inside,” said Shelby Hippo, 24, of Youngstown.

As the fire progressed, she heard “pops,” she said.

Battalion Chief John Lightly said there was no one inside the car when firefighters arrived.

He declined to say whether he thought the fire was arson. The fire was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, but they put out the fire involving the car, the building and the trees behind the car.

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