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Courts and Crime

A serial arsonist may be at work in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Investigators believe a string of fires were intentionally set; a reward is ffered for tips leading to an arrest

Kevin Niedermier
The Lapchynski house burned in early July.
Courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park
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In The Region:

Investigators believe a string of fires in Cuyahoga Valley National Park were deliberately set. So far this year, there have been eight suspicious fires on park property. The most recent incident was last Wednesday when a vacant, park-owned house in Peninsula burned down.

LISTEN: Tracking arson in the Cuyahoga Valley

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LISTEN: Jambor on the concerns

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No one has been injured in the fires, which include two vacant houses, a barn, some Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad tracks and four grass fires. Most of them have been in remote parts of the 33,000 acre park. The Valley Fire District, which serves Peninsula and Boston Heights, was called to last week’s house fire. Chief Charlie Riedel says his department is now helping to link the other incidents together.

“We had known there were other fires in the area, in Brecksville and Independence, but we really were not part of those. So now we’re part of the investigation task force that’s looking into this. And we’ve called the state fire marshal in, and I think they’re, more or less, heading up the investigation part of it.”

Susan Jambor lives in Peninsula, a small community in the heart of the park.  She says the rash of fires is on her mind.

LISTEN: Jambor on the concerns
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"I don't lose sleep over it but I'm concerned that his house was built in 1820. It would go up in about 15 seconds if somebody set fire to it. And there's so many historical properties around here, it would be terrible if somebody just chose to do that."

Besides the state fire marshal, six regional fire departments, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the National Park Service are now involved. Riedel says a suspicious 2012 barn fire his department investigated park property could also be linked to the recent fires. A $7,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest.

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