String of overnight fires under investigation in Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham firefighters are investigating a series of suspicious fires that happened overnight, all within a one mile radius. The three houses that burned were vacant, but the flames singed trees and damaged at least one occupied house nearby.

Battalion Chief C.W. Mardis says firefighters collected evidence from each of the scenes. Although the fires are still under investigation, Mardis says that arson is a strong possibility. Neighbors worry about how quickly flames could spread to other homes because of all the dry leaves, grass, and limbs in the area.

The flames that destroyed a house on 7th Place West were close enough to melt the siding on Andrew McGuire’s home.

He didn’t know it was happening until the fire department knocked on his door.

“It was sort of surreal, I guess. Kind of hard to believe, you know, that you’re that close to such devastation,” McGuire said.

He’s just relieved his house didn’t catch fire also.

“Because of the way the siding is melted it was only a few minutes away. I think the fire department did a good job of keeping the fire away from my home,” said McGuire. “But that was a close call.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but McGuire believes an arsonist is responsible.

“It’s probably something that’s not mentally right with them. They did tell me that they thought they saw someone up here trying to knock on my door. And they, it could be the person that set the fire over there,” said McGuire.

Not far away investigators also collected evidence from the site of a third fire in a matter of hours.

A burned out shell is all that remains of a house on Woodland Avenue

Not far away, investigators also collected evidence from the site of a third fire in less than 24 hours.

The blaze reduced a house on Woodland Avenue to a burned out shell.

Neighbors do not think the cluster of overnight fires is coincidental.

“They might be set deliberately just because of the way that it happened back to back and in the same neighborhood. Then it was one about a month ago across the street in those vacant apartments,” said Bill Stewart.

Stewart shudders to think what it would be like to lose everything.

“Basically that is the most terrifying thing that can happen,” said Stewart. “Fire, it will snuff out your entire life completely. You know, even if you’re not fatally injured in it or whatever, the aftermath of a fire is demeaning and it will take away your, your soul, really, because you have nothing left.”

Firefighters had to make a second trip to one brick house which was leveled by fire on 6th Street West.

The flames smoldered under debris for hours then flared up again as the wind picked up around noon.

Copyright 2014 WIAT 42 News

 

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