Rash of Arsons in 2010 Remains Unsolved in Pa. Community

Aug. 25--MINERSVILLE -- The cases attributed to a rash of arsons that caused borough residents to stay on edge in 2010 are still open.

There have not been any arrests made in connection with nine arsons within the span of seven months, that were found to be unrelated, Minersville police Chief Michael Combs said. The fires totaled more than $1.2 million in damages, according to The Republican-Herald archives.

Combs said the arsons were likely copy-cat incidents that caused hysteria of the community.

Making arrests for arson is difficult, Combs said.

"They are one of the most difficult crimes to prove because all of the evidence is circumstantial," he said.

Combs said he hopes that one day someone will call in with a tip about the arsons.

The string of arsons began on April 24, 2010, when the former Wynn-Ann Restaurant, 100 Sunbury St., burned down, Combs said. The restaurant was closed for about a year prior to the incident. The fire spread and severely damaged two neighboring buildings, 104 and 106 Sunbury St., while 108 Sunbury St., sustained smoke and water damage.

Minersville police suspected the arsonist may have climbed through a window to torch the property.

Combs said all that was left of the window was two metal hinges that he had to work with to figure out what kind of window they supported.

"I took these pieces to many different shops and we got enough information to build a replica of what the window would look like," Combs said.

After piecing together the window, Combs determined that the window didn't lock and was held shut by a string, according to the property owner, which is how the arsonist climbed into the building.

Three days following the Sunbury Street fire, another arson was committed about 4:30 a.m. on a side patio area toward the rear of 321 N. Front St., according to Combs and The Republican-Herald archives.

A few minor fires followed on June 22 and 23, 2010.

About 2:30 a.m., someone lit a decorative bunting on the front porch of 122 S. Third St. At the same time, trash in an ash bucket was lit on fire and pushed against a house two doors down from the bunting fire, according to The Republican-Herald archives. A day later, a Dumpster was set on fire about 4:30 a.m. at the King's Village Plaza.

In addition, a couch was set on fire about 1:40 a.m. Aug. 9, 2010, in one of the properties that previously burnt down, 104 Sunbury St.

In October 2010, three additional arsons were reported to Minersville police.

About 2:14 a.m. Oct. 18, 2010, someone set a carpet on fire at 101 Sunbury St. Fires were also reported about 2:15 a.m. Oct. 24 at 420 Sunbury St., and about two hours later on 327 Sunbury St.

The fires were all in a matter of six months, which caused not only city residents but police to be on high alert.

A reward of $1,000 was offered by the borough to catch the arsonist. It eventually grew to more than $7,000.

For additional safety, Anthracite Protective Services, a local security company, offered their services to the borough by making security officers and vehicles available for community watch operations, according to The Republican-Herald archives.

A borough-wide neighborhood crime watch also formed in November 2010. The borough held additional informational meetings regarding the string of arsons that had worried the community, according to The Republican-Herald archives.



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