MONESSEN (KDKA) — Authorities in Westmoreland County are investigating a rash of arsons in vacant homes in Monessen.
Four homes went up in flames overnight, and three firefighters were injured while battling the blazes.
A neighbor shot video of the vacant wood-frame home on 10th street that was swallowed by a huge ball of flames late Friday night.
Tomeka Hairston lives just across the street.
“This one was too close to my house,” Hairston said. “It got me scared. I didn’t like it at all.”
Less than an hour later, officials say someone started a fire on nearby Knox Avenue.
Then, at 4 a.m., a vacant home was destroyed and the back of the house next door was heavily damaged when another fire broke out at the intersection of 9th Street and Marguerite Avenue.
“It was just busy,” said Chief Christopher Rhome, of the Monessen Fire Department. “It’s cold and all these fires are arson, and it’s just really taking a toll on our firefighters; they’re all exhausted.”
Chief Rhome says they had no choice but to go on the defense because the vacant and blighted structures are just too dangerous.
Fire officials say they’ve had five suspicious fires in Monessen since Dec. 29.
Three firefighters were hurt overnight when they slipped and fell on the ice, including a female firefighter who suffered a broken tailbone.
The fire chief has a message for whoever is starting these fires.
“Please stop before you hurt any of our firefighters any more seriously than you already have, and if you don’t stop and you are caught, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Chief Rhome said.
Others are also hoping the arsons will stop, but they’re worried that Monessen has too many vacant abandoned buildings.
“In a four block radius, there’s over 50 abandoned homes, so I guess you can expect, we can expect more of this,” said Alan Duncan, a resident of Monessen.
The state police fire marshal is investigating.