‘Suspicious’ fires reported in city

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By Denyse Clark

City law enforcement and firefighters responded to two “suspicious fires” in as many weeks, according to Lancaster Police Department incident reports.

On Dec. 8, emergency personnel were dispatched to a home at 315 McCardell St., which was partially filled with smoke, the report said. 

The officer helped two female residents get out of the house and  told a 53-year-old male resident, who was in the attic attempting to locate the cause of the fire, to get out. 

“At this time, the fire department arrived on the scene and located a small fire at the back of the house,” the report said. “Once the fire department put out the fire, they secured the house and spoke with (the 54-year-old female resident) who stated everyone went to sleep around 12:30 and 1 a.m.” 

The woman said the fire alarm woke her and she, in turn, woke her 23-year-old son, who woke the 53-year-old male. 

She said in the report the older man checked the stove and a toaster in an attempt to locate the source of the fire but couldn’t find it, so she called 911. She said the man then checked the attic and was still there when police and firefighters arrived. 

The woman told the officer she was having trouble breathing and needed her inhaler but refused medical attention several times, the report said. 

The officer tried to interview the 53-year-old man, but according to the report, he “appeared to be heavily intoxicated” and was unwilling to speak to the officer and walked away. 

The officer also tried to speak with the woman’s 23-year-old son but the man said, ‘You know me’ and became upset. The report said the 23-year-old man had “a strong odor of marijuana” on him and refused to cooperate.

Fire department officials asked if anyone had been smoking outside and were told, “no,” the report said.  

No cigarette butts were found on the ground near the location of the fire, however, a cigarette lighter was found on a nearby TV, the report said. The older man said he had used the lighter about three days earlier to start a fire in the fireplace of the home.

The fire department was unable to determine “a reason for the fire,” the report said. The case is under  investigation.

More than a week later on Dec. 16, a Lancaster Police Department officer was dispatched to the 1600 block of Pardue Street Apartments where he saw a gazebo on fire, the report said. Lancaster Fire Department members were called to the scene and were able to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher. 

“The fire department located what appeared to be a burned brown paper bag,” the officer wrote in the report. 

Fire department officials told the officer they believed someone set the fire using the brown bag. The fire damaged a few roof boards between two rafters of the gazebo. The case is under investigation.


Contact reporter Denyse Clark at (803) 283-1152