New Castle’s police and fire departments are offering a reward for help in solving a handful of summer arsons.
New Castle Fire Chief Tom Maciarello said the reward pertains to five arsons between July 5 and Friday.
Maciarello, Police Chief Bobby Salem and Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo met to discuss the investigations and came up with the idea of offering a reward for prosecution, Salem explained Monday.
The mayor explained the money is coming from a fund established about three years ago when the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review donated $10,000 to help solve the arsons on the Lower East Side. The city put in $3,000.
In October 2009, six people were charged in a series of arsons in the city, most on the East Side.
The group targeted vacant homes and court testimony indicated the acts followed drug use. The arrests put an end to that string of arsons.
A woman received a $5,000 reward for giving up information toward solving that rash of fires, Mastrangelo said.
“We have $8,000 left. When they said there was a fire last week, I said, ‘That’s enough. Let’s offer a reward.’”
According to Maciarello, all five of the recent fires were started in the back of the buildings and all the structures were vacant with no electrical power, natural gas or other utilities.
The fires targeted in this investigation are:
•A house on Shadyside at East Washington, burned July 5.
•A house at 642 Ray St., which spread to the house at 644 Ray St., July 5.
•The former Black Whale and Pat’s Camera Shop building, East Washington Street, July 22.
•A house at 105 Phillips Place, Aug. 9
•A house at 708 W. Clayton St., Aug. 17.
“The only one where we smelled a type of accelerant was at Phillips Place. The others were all burned really badly, so we couldn’t go in to make a determination,” Maciarello said.
“Right now we’re looking for information if anyone has known anything, seen anything or talked to anyone.”
He pointed out every time the fire department responds to an arson there is a loss of property and potential for serious injury or death of firefighters or someone else.
“No one has been hurt yet,” he said, “except my firefighter got hurt at the Black Whale fire. But one of these times the roof is going to cave in on one of my guys and we’re trying to prevent that.”
He encourages city residents to keep a close watch if they know of any vacant houses in the area where they live.
“I’m pretty sure that everyone in the city knows of one somewhere.”
“Every fire puts firemen in danger, and on top of that there are other safety risks,” Salem added, citing the Ray Street blaze where the house next door also caught fire.
There also is the financial aspect of using manpower and resources, “which puts a burden on the city.”
Anyone who has information about any of the fires is encouraged to contact the New Castle police detective bureau at (724) 656-3586.
If the investigators receive multiple tips regarding the same suspect, he said, they would probably have to share the reward once the suspect is prosecuted.