Niles fires suspicious, witnesses describe possible suspectPublished 10:13am Thursday, March 14, 2013
Police are calling a pair of house fires that broke out Thursday morning in Niles suspicious.
Both homes were vacant and located beside one another at 404 N. 4th Street and 410 N. 4th Street. The fires began shortly after 9:30 a.m.
Lt. Mike Stanton, of the Niles Police Dept., said the fact that the homes were vacant and caught fire at the same time leads police to believe the fires are suspicious in nature.
Niles police could be seen taking photographs of footprints in the snow near the fire scene.
A pair of witnesses said they saw a suspicious person that appeared to be coming out of the 404 N. 4th St. residence while the residence was smoking.
Donald Dillon and David Helms, both of Niles, said they were in the area giving out estimates for yard work when they noticed the fire. They said they saw a person walking quickly away from the scene, south on N. 4th Street. They described the person as a white male with dirty blonde hair between the height of 5-foot-6 and 5-7 and wearing a red coat and beige baseball cap.
Det. Richard Krueger, of the Niles Police Dept., said no people or pets were inside either home, but said it is possible a stray animal could’ve been in one of the homes.
No one was injured in the fire according to Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb, who said it is too early to determine the cause.
Niles City Fire received assistance from five different fire stations: Niles Township, Buchanan, Bertrand Township, Howard Township and Clay.
“We wouldn’t have had enough resources without their help,” Lamb said.
Krueger said police have no reason to believe, at this point, the fires are related to a string of arson fires that occurred in Niles in April of last year. Two of the homes damaged in the April fires were vacant and all three fires occurred within one hour of each other.