Investigators: 5 Taunton fires may be work of arsonist

SE Mass

TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) —  An investigation is underway after Taunton firefighters were called to five suspicious fires within about two hours overnight.

Taunton Fire Chief Timothy Bradshaw and Police Chief Edward Walsh say it’s believed the fires were intentionally set and they’re now seeking to catch those responsible.

The first call came in for a truck fire around 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to officials. Then, about a half-hour later, crews responded to a basement fire at a bakery on Weir Street. As firefighters worked to put out those flames, neighbors alerted them to two more fires on the same street; a couch in a backyard had been set ablaze, along with a neighbor’s deck.

The fifth scene was on Leonard Court, where a wood pallet was set on fire. (Officials initially referred to this scene as Allans Avenue.)

According to officials, the five fire locations were:

  • Silver City Gas, 69 Weir St.
  • Art’s International Bakery II, 210 Weir St.
  • 220 Weir St.
  • 228 Weir St.
  • 29 Leonard Court

All five fires were quickly knocked down, officials said, and no injuries were reported.

“I want to commend our firefighters who quickly went from fire to fire in a short period of time to prevent them from spreading and causing further property damage or potential injury,” Deputy Fire Chief Mike Sylvia said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Four residents of the two apartments located above the bakery were safely removed from the building after the fire started, according to Sylvia.

That fire was contained to the basement, Sylvia said, but those four people were displaced due to fire damage to the electrical system. The residents are receiving assistance from the Taunton Emergency Management Agency (TEMA).

Sylvia noted that the Leonard Court property is abandoned and currently owned by the city.

No arrests have been made thus far. Police said they briefly detained a person of interest for questioning Thursday morning but that person was released after investigators determined he was not involved.

Officials said they have a rough description of a possible suspect but they were not ready to make that information public.

Detectives are now working to gather surveillance video from the area, according to Sylvia.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for anyone who can help investigators find the culprit.

“I just want to assure the residents of Taunton they are safe,” Mayor Thomas Hoye said at the news conference. “We will remain vigilant, we have extra patrols out as needed, and we will continue to until we deem that not necessary.”

The state fire marshal’s office is assisting with the investigation.

Anyone with information about any of the fires or who may have noticed suspicious activity in the area of Weir Street or Leonard Court is urged to call Taunton Police at (508) 824-7522 or the Arson Hotline at 1-800-682-9229.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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