Sunday evening update:
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was among the officials to attend a press conference Sunday afternoon about the series of fires that occurred between 2:00 AM and 3:15 AM in the college town of Northampton. A $5,000 reward has been offered in the investigation that includes one fire where two men were killed.
Officials now report a dozen incidents within a half-mile radius of downtown to include five house fires, four vehicle fires, two attempted house fires and an attempted vehicle fire. But according to the news coverage the officials at the press conference would not state the obvious conclusion that an arsonist is on the loose. The would only refer to the fires as suspicious.
All of the fires took place in a half-mile radius of downtown. The people who died were occupants of a Fair Street home that was destroyed in the blaze, according to Northampton Deputy Fire Chief Christopher Norris, who spoke at the Carlon Drive fire station this morning.
The street list identifies the occupants of that home as Paul Yeske Sr., 81, Paul Yeske Jr., 39, and Elaine Yeske, 73. Authorities said today that two male residents of the home died, while one survived; officials had not yet officially released the names of the fire victims.
Norris said firefighters were initially called to a fire at a Union Street home. While battling that blaze, he said the department received multiple calls of other structure and vehicle fires in the area.
The second fire was reported on Highland Avenue, the third on Fair Street and the fourth on Northern Avenue, which involved a garage.
In all, firefighters responded to structure fires on Fair Street, Union Street, Highland Avenue and Northern Avenue, Williams Street and Pomeroy Terrace. Vehicle fires also took place on Fair Street, Williams Street, Pomeroy Terrace and Crescent Street. Multiple car fires were reported on North Street.
At 26 Union St. fire, two residents were able to get out to safety after the house began to burn.
A Northampton police officer taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for treatment after suffering an injury while investigating the fire of two porches on Highland Avenue
Residents on Fair Street said an arsonist has been setting fires for at least a year in the area known as Ward 3, which is between the city’s downtown area and its small airport.
Neighborhood groups have met with police and fire officials several times to discuss the problem, which in the past were nuisance fires such as leaves being set ablaze or car fires, the Courant reported.
Northampton, where Smith College is located, is known for its vibrant downtown and is part of an academic community that is home to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College and Hampshire College.
A tragic and busy night in Northampton, Massachusetts. There were at least eleven separate fires within a half-mile radius according to WGGB-TV.
Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan told reporters that there were four significant building fires, four vehicle fires next to buildings and three smaller fires. Fourteen surrounding towns provided mutual aid.
The first fire was reported shortly before 2:00 this morning.
Northampton Fire Chief Brian Duggan tells ABC 40 and Fox 6 that just before 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning the first call came in for a fire and they just keep coming. In a little more than an hour eleven calls, for eleven separate fires all for the most part within a half-mile radius.
Fourteen surrounding towns responded to assist Northampton Fire, and the City Emergency Operation Center has been activated.
While it has been difficult this morning finding specifics about the fires on the web, WSHM-TV reports the fatalities occurred in a home on Fair Street.
Northampton fire officials met with neighbors in November after a string of fires that caused property damage. In late 2007, the city also logged several vehicle fires that were believed to be the work of an arsonist.