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Police & Fire

Arson ruled at 3 vacant city houses

2 firefighters hurt in morning blaze

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Toledo firefighter Mike DelVecchio wipes sweat from his head after battling a fire at a vacant home at 814 Willow Ave. in East Toledo. Thursday’s extremely hot weather made firefighting’s physical work with heavy, protective clothing even more arduous than usual.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Toledo Fire Department is investigating three fires it extinguished Thursday as arson.

No civilians were injured in the blazes at vacant houses at 3135 128th St., in Point Place, and 606 Milton St. and 814 Willow Ave., in East Toledo, fire Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld said.

He said two firefighters were injured at the Willow Avenue fire where they fell through a floor. Both were treated and released.

The first fire was reported at 128th Street at 1:56 a.m., while the second fire was called in about 3:50 a.m. at Milton Street. Firefighters responded to the Willow Avenue blaze about 8:35 a.m.

Lieutenant Hertzfeld said investigators determined all three fires were set.

However, he could not say if the arsons were related and did not say if investigators had any leads.

“It’s one thing to prove that they’re arson, it’s another whole thing to try and get that conviction and then also draw those parallels where they’re all related,” he said.

There was no damage reported to neighboring buildings at the Willow Avenue or 128th Street fires, the lieutenant said. There was minor damage at the Milton Street location to an adjacent house on the left side when facing the building and a pickup truck.

The adjacent house “didn’t sustain any fire damage, but it was charged or filled with smoke,” he said. “We had crews in there that protected that [house], that did not allow that fire to spread. ... There was a pickup truck on the other side ... that sustained some damage, but other than that, that’s all the damage there was from Milton other than the main fire building.”

All three buildings were demolished later Thursday.

No firefighters suffered heat-related injuries extinguishing the fires, but summertime’s higher dehydration risk can be particularly dangerous for firefighters, he said. High temperatures have surged into the 90s, with high humidity, this week in the Toledo area.

“It [safety] becomes more of a prominent issue for us in the warm weather, especially as it’s been in the past week, with high humidity and high temperatures,” he said. “Your body runs at 98.6 [degrees], you dress in that gear and you’re already pushing your body temperature higher, then you’re going into a hot environment, and doing extreme physical exertion.”

Heat exhaustion also can occur in winter as firefighters battle flames in heavy equipment, but extra precautions are taken with firefighters in summer months, the lieutenant said.

“We run them through what we call a rehabilitation where vital signs are checked, make sure that they get plenty of fluids, watch the electrolytes, all those types of things, and as soon as you come out, you get your gear off, you get that cooling-down process started,” he said.

Contact Sam Gans at: sgans@theblade.com or 419-724-6516.

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