Early morning fire causes damage to two houses - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Early morning fire causes damage to two houses

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"It was ferocious. The flames were so high, and so bright. I'm color blind and I could even tell the orangeness of it." Heath Richardson says he could feel the heat of this fire 30 yards away in his own house. It happened around 4 am in the 700 block of South Erie Street in central Toledo. Just moments after crews were putting out another vacant house fire a block away. Richardson called 911 and ran to warn his friend to get his family out of their house right next door to the fire.

The fire started at the vacant home at 723 South Erie, then jumped to the next house, 725 South Erie. The homes in this block are just a few feet apart, making the fire fight more complicated for the rescue teams. Fire crews say they are both a total loss. No one was injured. But crews were trying to protect Joseph Reyes' house next door. He says, "The first thing in my mind is where my kids are. I ran to my kid's room, woke them up. They didn't know what was going on. But yes, it was very scary."

Arson investigators are looking into the cause and the Building Department has been called in to demolish at least one of the houses. Neighbors wonder if there a neighborhood arsonist.

Heath Richardson says, "If this is arson, it needs to be stopped cause this is just ridiculous. Like I said, this is the fifth or sixth house fire in the last two months. We lost two down there, now this one, possibly that one. That's going to leave five houses on this block. There's not much left."

Battalion Chief John Kaminski says investigators are looking at the fire patterns. But he doesn't think there is a neighborhood arsonist.

"In our experience, usually around this time of the summer, when everyone is out of school, there's a lot more activity, you see some of this suspicious type of fire popping up, especially in a vacant dwelling."

But this experience has shaken Joseph Reyes. He wants the vacant houses torn down. And he and his neighbors are talking about restarting their neighborhood watch program. "The house that caught on fire has already caught on fire two or three times this year already. So this is like the third time.  I think the best thing is to get rid of it so it doesn't catch on fire so it doesn't catch on fire again and I don't have to worry about my house and I don't have to worry about going to bed, catching on fire," he says.

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