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Suspicious fires have Mansfield on edge

Associated Press • Oct 16, 2012 at 3:24 PM

Mansfield has on average seen a suspicious fire at a vacant house about every three days since June 13, and fires on Sunday and Monday pushed the total to 38, the Mansfield News Journal (http://ohne.ws/SZ0Eq4 ) reported Tuesday.

"It's gotten crazy," city fire Chief John Harsch said.

There are few clues, but a city police crime analyst is mapping the locations of the fires to see if any trends develop, he said. The police department also has loaned a detective to help with the investigation.

"We're not going at this alone," Harsch said.

The chief also hopes a $5,000 reward being offered by the Ohio Blue Ribbon Arson Committee will make a difference.

The Monday fire was under control within minutes, with damage limited to a spot near the back door of a vacant house.

"It looks like somebody flashed and dashed," Assistant Chief Jim Bishop said. "It looks like they broke the glass and tossed in some type of accelerant."

But the fire Sunday — also at a vacant house — resulted in the most damage so far, according to officials.

"This has got to stop," said city resident Joseph Valdry.

The longest stretch without a suspicious fire was three weeks, from June 24 to July 15.

Harsch said many of the fires were similar, but he suspects a different culprit set the Sunday fire and one on Oct. 6 that were on the north side of the city. Most of the blazes were on the city's south side.

"We think they're different in how they were set," the chief said.

He said some of the fires have damaged siding on adjacent, occupied homes.

"There's always the concern that somebody's going to get hurt," he said.

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