Fear Gnaws Neighbors in Wake of Pa. Arsons

Aug. 12--CARBONDALE -- Patricia Hopkins has trouble sleeping at night. Her neighbors, too. Unease gnaws at the community because of arsons within two blocks of Ms. Hopkins' Eighth Avenue home. Neighbors wonder who may next wake up to the smell of smoke.

"None of the neighbors sleep at night," Ms. Hopkins said. "They're scared."

Firefighters responded to 25 Wayne St. and 145-147 Eighth Ave. shortly after 3 a.m. Friday while neighbors scrambled to help residents escape. A shed between the two houses was set on fire, state police fire marshals said.

On July 11, police say the same arsonist set a fire in a recycling bin on the back deck of 37 Wayne St., causing moderate damage.

The fire set Friday left a family who lived in the Eighth Avenue unit since 1977 wondering if they can salvage anything.

A message left for state police Fire Marshal John Chervanka was not returned. Neighbors are wondering if the arsonist will settle for two fires.

Sam Olfano can take precautions to prevent accidental fires, like paying attention to the stove and making sure he has a fire extinguisher on hand at his Wayne Street house.

He can't predict an arson.

"To have someone out there deliberately setting fires is very unsettling," said Mr. Olfano.

One block away, Joy Smith worries that the arsonist can target any house. She hopes police capture the culprit soon.

"People who do this have a problem and need help," Mrs. Smith said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Hopkins keeps important documents close so she can grab them if she only has seconds to get out the door.

Some neighbors are considering surveillance cameras and motion-activated porch lights, she said.

Others leave a light on.

"God only knows who could be the next one," Ms. Hopkins said.

Contact the writer: jkohut@timesshamrock.com, @jkohutTT on Twitter

Copyright 2014 - The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

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