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Published: Friday, 5/26/2006

Authorities say arson to blame for 3 city blazes

BY CHRISTINA HALL
BLADE STAFF WRITER

An arsonist used a baseball bat to bust a hole in the front door of a South Toledo gas station and then threw two containers inside that exploded and started a fire yesterday morning.

The blaze at the Gas-N-Go, 740 South Ave., was one of three arsons in the city in four hours, with the other two at vacant houses.

The gas station fire shortly after 5 a.m. caused about $70,000 damage. Much of the damage was to the contents; the one-story building appeared to be structurally sound, fire Investigator Michael Smith said.

Store video showed the suspect walking past the gas station toward Broadway and placing two small devices near the front door. The suspect left for three to five minutes, returned, and lit the devices - plastic containers with fluid - which exploded in the building, Mr. Smith said.

He said the suspect was thrown about five feet and ran toward the Anthony Wayne Trail. The suspect may have been burned in the explosion.

Police initially were sent to the gas station on an alarm call. They found the hole in the front door and the floor on fire. Firefighters were called to the scene, according to a police report.

At least one of the two vacant houses that caught fire was razed after blazes that occurred before the gas station incident.

The first fire occurred about 12:50 a.m. at a two-story house at 1617 Palmwood Ave. The blaze caused minor damage to a neighboring house at 1615 Palmwood. Damage for both houses was estimated at $9,000, Battalion Fire Chief Eric Renzhofer said.

About two hours later, a vacant house at 1369 Fitchland Ave. caught fire. Fire officials told police the blaze appears to have started on the exterior of the locked, two-story structure and spread to the inside. Firefighters had to break down the doors to battle the blaze, police said.

Firefighters listed the damage at $10,000, and the house was razed, the battalion chief said.



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