Police in Niagara Falls are looking for a serial arsonist who has set 13 fires this month, destroying nearly $3,000 worth of garbage/recycling totes and badly damaging a home.
"There is a risk to human life if this doesn't end," said Mayor Paul Dyster.
The fires have all been lit in the mid-city and downtown areas between 7pm and 1am with the heaviest concentration in an area between Whitney and Forest Avenues and 18th and 24th Streets. Most involved city-owned garbage and recycling totes in alleys or the rear of homes.
The latest took place late Sunday night on Whitney Avenue in a garbage tote that was against the side a house and forced five people from their home. The damage that the fire caused is shown in the picture with this story.
The flames burned away siding that was part of an outside wall where an 11-year-old boy was sleeping. No injuries were reported but the blaze caused $6,000 damage.
Investigators are hard at work on these cases and say they will not stop until the person or persons responsible is found. Authorities say charges of misdemeanor fifth degree arson will be filed in some cases and charges of felony fourth degree arson in others.
"Usually, the history of arson fires and the person who is doing arson is that they start small and move up to bigger things like vacant buildings," said Niagara Falls Fire Chief Thomas Colangelo.
That is a concern for officials because there are several vacant buildings in the city and some are occupied by homeless individuals.
In the meantime, police have increased their patrols and the fire department is asking residents to keep their garbage totes away from their homes. They’re also advising not leaving totes in an alley or front of a home for longer than it takes waste disposal to remove the trash.
"In the time period for your garbage, put them out the night before until your garbage is picked up. We just don't want them lingering in the alley all week long," added Colangelo
If you have any information that can help investigators find the culprit or culprits, call police at 716-286-4553 or the Office of Fire Prevention at 716-286-4728.
"We believe it is possible that there may be individuals in the neighborhood who have seen someone behaving suspiciously and may not be connecting it to these arson fires. That is why we need to hear from those residents" explained Mayor Dyster.