1. #1
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    Post Cleveland Fire -- Arson

    By THOMAS J. SHEERAN
    Associated Press Writer
    CLEVELAND (AP) - Authorities have determined a house fire that
    killed nine people on May 21 was deliberately set, fire officials
    said.
    City fire investigators concluded that the blaze was the result
    of arson, said Lt. Clayton Cunningham, a spokesman for the
    Cleveland Fire Department, on Tuesday.
    Cunningham did not know what evidence was used to reach the
    finding, which reversed an initial determination that the fire was
    accidental and not suspicious.
    Investigators have not identified a motive or suspect. The
    department planned to hold a news conference Wednesday to discuss
    details, he said.
    Police Lt. Thomas Stacho said authorities planned to open a
    criminal investigation but could not do so until the coroner rules
    the deaths were homicides. He said he was not aware of the fire
    department's conclusions, which the coroner will use to make a
    ruling on the victims' deaths.
    Earlier Tuesday, about 4,000 people gathered at the Cleveland
    Convention Center for a funeral service honoring eight of the
    victims.
    Evelyn Martin, grandmother of six young victims and mother of
    Medeia Carter, 33, who died with four of her children, said: "I am
    grateful to God that she went with the babies and the babies went
    with her."
    A funeral service for the ninth victim, a friend of the family
    who lived in the home, was held Saturday. A critically burned
    woman's condition was upgraded last week to fair. Another man
    escaped unharmed from the fire.
    Most of those who died were members of an extended family of
    siblings and cousins. They all died of smoke inhalation. Three were
    burned so badly that DNA samples from family members were needed to
    confirm identifications.
    Mayor Jane Campbell led mourners in lauding rescuers and said
    the tragedy had unified the city. "This has been an extraordinary
    effort by this community," she said.
    People held daily memorials outside the burned house and donated
    a waist-high pile of stuffed toys, balloons and flowers.
    Public schools and several city streets were closed for the
    funeral and, for the first time since the death of former Mayor
    Carl B. Stokes in 1997, the city allowed funeral services to be
    held at the convention center.
    Burial plots were donated by a retired police detective and the
    cemetery. Others have promised free headstones, caskets, vaults and
    burial clothes, and more than 100 churches have collected money for
    victims' families.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    CLEVELAND (AP) - With the speed of the fast-moving house fire
    that killed nine people, eight of them children, the word that an
    arsonist was to blame quickly spread among neighbors.
    "It's kind of amazing," said Tom Tolliver, 46, walking by the
    growing pile of balloons and stuffed animals that became a shrine
    to the victims: a mother, four of her five children and four
    extended family members and friends invited to a birthday
    sleepover.
    "It's hard to believe someone would do it," Tolliver said.
    "It's hard to believe people would set fire with people inside the
    house."
    Funerals for the last eight victims were held 10 days after the
    May 21 fire, and within hours tests by city firefighters and the
    state fire marshal came to the same conclusion: an accelerant,
    later determined to be gasoline, was used to set the fire. "We have to figure
    out what happened," said Mayor Jane
    Cambell, who met with victims' relatives after the last funeral to
    tell them about the arson ruling.
    The arson determination reversed the accidental fire ruling that
    fire Chief Paul Stubbs had announced on the day of the blaze.
    It turned out that a smoke detector inside the 99-year-old frame
    house had a charged battery, meaning it likely sounded an alarm.
    The loss of life in spite of an alarm raised investigators'
    suspicions. "We had young, able-bodied people who we believe had a
    smoke detector warning and weren't abl to evacuate. I think that
    got our attention the most," Stubbs said Wednesday.
    All the dead were on the second floor. Another woman was badly
    burnedand survived and a man fled the basement unhurt.
    Neighbors also had been asking why none of the children managed
    to escape.
    "The fire department came and did the best job they could,"
    said Ray Austin, 32, who lives in the poor neighborhood 3 miles
    from downtown.
    "I saw the sincere looks on their faces when they came out of
    the house on the news. It was like they had done all they could,
    the expression on their faces," Austin said.
    With the arson ruling, homicide detectives started
    re-interviewing 30 to 40 people who had talked earlier with fire
    investigators: neighbors, relatives and people who had visited the
    home on the day before the pre-dawn fire.
    Neighborhood talk focused on whether a a bad relationship - a
    drug deal or the like - led to the arson. Was the car of victim
    Medeia Carter moved from its regular spot? What were police
    searching for when they impounded the car?Was the father of one of
    the victims under suspicion? Was the back door nailed shut? Had
    anyone been given a lie-detector test?
    Investigators kept a lid on information.
    "No one has been ruled out as a suspect," said police Lt.
    Thomas Stacho, assigned by the mayor as the clearinghouse for
    questions on a case now including state and city fire
    investigators, city police, federal agents and the coroner.
    The car was checked and apparently provided little information.
    Detectives "don't have any leads that the car is going to lead to
    anything at this time," Sgt. Daniel Galmarini said late Friday.
    One resident, fearful for his safety because of rumors that he
    might have been involved, surrendered to police on unrelated
    warrants. He has not been identified as a suspect.
    Arson posters on the boarded-up house offer a $5,000 reward for
    information, and the city established two tip lines, one for
    anonymous callers.
    After the fire, firefighters and Red Cross workers canvassed the
    neighborhood to offer residents free smoke detectors.
    "It takes an incident like this to wake people up," said fire
    Lt. Tim Corrigan.
    The Red Cross distributed about 115 smoke detectors in the
    neighborhood that day. One week before the fire, the Red Cross had
    marked the giveaway of its 100,000th smoke detector in the
    Cleveland area since 1992.

    APTV 06-05-05 1445EDT
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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