Neighbors detain suspected arsonist after fires

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Providence fire truck_206541

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A man suspected of starting two fires in Providence was confronted and held by residents until police arrived.

Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Joseph Desmarais told Eyewitness News that the two fires started a little after 10 p.m. Friday, the first happening in a dumpster adjacent to 143 Congress Avenue. That home sustained significant damage to one side, although nobody was hurt.

A few minutes later, a fire started in a van parked at 124 Mitchell Street, just a few hundred feet away. Residents on Mitchell Street told Eyewitness News that they saw someone nearby who looked as if he was trying to hide, and they confronted him.

“The neighbor basically saw him hiding, so she told us, ‘oh he’s hiding, he’s hiding,'” said Janice Rodriguez, who lives in the neighborhood and helped to subdue the suspect. “That’s when we noticed that he was still here and that’s why we held him down until the cops came.”

“We’ve never seen this guy before and seeing that random person in our parking lot, close to our cars and seeing the situation that’s happening, it’s kind of obvious,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez credits the neighborhood working together for the successful outcome.

“Things happen, fires and stuff like that, but we always help out each other,” said Rodriguez. “We [are] always here and we [are] always helping out neighbors and the neighbors help us, so that’s good.”

The proximity of the fires and the very short time between them was suspicious, Desmarais said, and the fact that they occurred around 10 p.m. and not in the early-morning hours likely prevented them from becoming worse.

According to Desmarais, the man was arrested. More information from the police department wasn’t immediately available Saturday afternoon.

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