Arsonist on the loose in Gowanda

Posted at 11:02 AM, Aug 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-26 08:18:40-04

Authorities are now asking the public for help as they search for an arsonist in the Village of Gowanda after a fire early Sunday morning badly damaged two vacant buildings on South Water Street.

One building was destroyed and the other had extensive damage.

The buildings were vacant and no one was hurt, but the concern whenever there are arson fires is the safety of first responders, said Gowanda Mayor Heather McKeever.

The next night, another fire broke out inside a large storage garage off East Main Street and very close to occupied apartments.

"It was scary because it was close to where I lay my head to sleep at night," said Gowanda resident Eva Linda.

The East Main Street fire is still under investigation with authorities not ruling anything out yet.

A reward of $2,500 is being offered by the Cattaraugus County Arson Task Force for information relating to the South Water Street fire.  Anyone with information is asked to either call Gowanda Police or the Cattaraugus County Sheriff's Office.

Mayor McKeever added that it is disappointing that the village is now dealing with an arsonist just weeks after a massive fire suspected of being started by kids in Lockport caused the evacuation of residents and needed the efforts of hundreds of firefighters to put out.

Fourteen-year-old Joseph Phillips died in the Lockport fire after he became stuck inside a burning building at the High Tread International tire recycling facility.  It is expected that arson charges in the Lockport fire could be filed in the near future.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly spent the day in Gowanda talking to residents and officials about the fire bug in their village.