Two arsons in Shickshinny on Tuesday and a fire in the neighboring Mocanaqua section of Conyngham Township on Monday ‚?? a month after another arson occurred at neighboring row homes ‚?? have residents on edge and officials advising them to be vigilant.
State police Fire Marshal Ron Jarocha said that a structure fire at 194 Susquehanna Ave. reported at 3:52 a.m. Tuesday and a vehicle fire in front of 151 Canal St. reported at 5:24 a.m. were both intentionally set.
Jarocha said he is still investigating a fire at 3 Main St. in Mocanaqua, which was reported at 1:57 p.m. Monday. He said that fire is suspicious and is still under investigation.
Mocanaqua Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Stephen McDaniels said the fire is suspicious because the house had been flood damaged and there were no utilities connected.
Jarocha said there is no evidence to suggest that the three fires are connected because they were all started in different ways.
He would not provide specific details as to not jeopardize the success of his investigation. He did say that the vehicle fire, which was parked in front of 151 Canal St. ‚?? the home of Shickshinny Mayor Beverly Moore ‚?? started in the front passenger seat of the 1999 Mercedes Benz ML 430, and that the structure fire in Shickshinny started on the rear porch.
While each fire was set differently, McDaniels said a connection can‚??t be ruled out. He noted that a fire on a row home at 4-5-6 Main Street last month was also an arson.
‚??I would advise residents to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. If they see anything, call 911 and report it to police,‚?Ě he said.
Shickshinny Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Morris said officials are ‚??beefing up‚?Ě mutual aid response for the next 24 to 48 hours. Additional fire crews, who normally are not dispatched until a second alarm is sounded, will also be dispatched on a first alarm for now, he said. He also urged residents to be vigilant.
‚??We‚??re urging residents to keep their porch lights on through the night. Believe it or not, it does make a difference‚?Ě in deterring crime, he said.
Shickshinny Fire Chief Kevin Morris, Ryan‚??s father, said officials are ‚??trying to tie together a relationship‚?Ě between the fires, ‚??and we really can‚??t do that because they all started different ways, different means.‚??
‚??We‚??re not saying they‚??re not related, but we‚??re having a hard time pinpointing if they are related. And, if they‚??re not related, then why two or three arsonists? I wouldn‚??t like to think there was any. But if there is any, I would like to think it was just one so we could catch him and be done with it,‚?Ě Kevin Morris said.
Moore echoed the fire chiefs‚?? sentiments and advice to residents about being vigilant, keeping porch lights on overnight and reporting suspicious people or activity to police.
Moore said there are 17 flood-damaged homes that are vacant and 11 that are occupied on Susquehanna Avenue and Canal Street, so keeping an eye out is important.
‚??Everyone needs to be constantly checking the neighborhoods. If they see anything or anyone that doesn‚??t belong, call 911. No call is stupid,‚?Ě Moore said.
Several residents living near the Susquehanna Avenue fire declined to talk with a reporter. But Donna, an employee at the town‚??s donut shop who declined to give her last name, said many people in town are talking about the fires.
‚??We‚??re all afraid because we think they‚??re arsons. I really think we need police around watching closely. They seem to come out just to give tickets and not patrol. ‚?Ľ We‚??re all concerned, that‚??s for sure,‚?Ě she said.
As for beefing up police patrols, Moore said it‚??s something she will have to discuss with council. She said council on Oct. 31 sent her a letter reminding her that police patrols are limited to 25 hours a week.
‚??My response was, ‚??Everything will be based on what comes up,‚??‚?Ě Moore said.
She said Jarocha told her he has requested state police to conduct extra patrols in Mocanaqua, which has no local department, and in Shickshinny when local police are off duty.