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Published: Wednesday, 6/20/2007

Fire in vacant Hancock County house is believed to be arson

ARLINGTON, Ohio - An early morning fire that badly damaged a vacant house on Hancock County Road 8 yesterday was intentionally set, and investigators are wondering whether it was ignited by the arsonist responsible for a string of fires in nearby Mount Blanchard.

"At this point, we have absolutely no idea if it is or not, but it's always in the back of our heads," county Sheriff's Deputy Bill Laveglia said.

The one-story, wood-frame house owned by Daniel Chavez of Findlay is less than five miles northwest of Mount Blanchard, a small southeastern Hancock County village about 60 miles south of Toledo that has had 11 arsons since mid October.

Deputy Laveglia said the house had no electricity or gas service, and no one lived there. The Arlington and Delaware Township fire departments responded to the blaze, which was reported by a neighbor about 2:15 a.m.

Delaware Township's 20-member volunteer fire department has been called out to 11 blazes that investigators believe were intentionally set in a four-block area of Mount Blanchard. No one has been hurt, but residents are tired of the loss of property.

"It's very frustrating for us down here because we don't have any leads," Delaware Township Fire Chief Dave Rodabaugh said. "I know the sheriff's office has been working real hard on it. We'd like it to stop, and we'd like to be able to catch who's doing it."

The village has plans to start a community block watch and has collected $1,600 in donations to increase the usual $1,000 Crime Stoppers reward for information on the arsons to $2,600. Village Council also is looking at a plan to pay for extra patrols by the sheriff's office.

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