Arson Fires Plague Cleveland Neighborhoods

CLEVELAND --

Police are looking for arsonists who are targeting a Cleveland neighborhood.

Fire investigators said the arsonists have been setting fires in the Hough neighborhood, around East 98th Street and Union, and residents say they are scared.

Vacant houses are the targets of a man-made firestorm spreading from neighborhood to neighborhood around Cleveland.

Karen Washington lives in the path of the arson storm. On Tuesday, someone set fire to a vacant house across the street, and it quickly spread to two adjacent houses that were also uninhabited.

No one was hurt, but Washington said she fears the fire next time.

"It's really bad to have these abandoned houses on this street. I'm worried about the neighborhood," she said. "As you can see we have plenty of abandoned houses on this street. We have a lot of kids on this street."

The Cleveland Fire Department said so far this year there have been 64 arsons in vacant houses, slightly higher than the 54 arson fires in all of last year.

Fire officials said each charred structure is evidence of a dangerous national trend brought on by the foreclosure crisis.

Thieves raid vacant houses for valuable scrap and set fire to them to cover their tracks, risking the lives of firefighters.

"You never know what you're going to be dealing with when you get inside. There could be holes in the floor, there could be pipes exposed, there could be shattered glass," said Larry Gray of the Cleveland Fire Department.

Anyone with information that could help investigators should call Crime Stoppers at 216-252-7463.

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