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Fire at North Tonawanda firefighter's apartment was suspicious, investigators believe

NORTH TONAWANDA -- Investigators believe a fire was intentionally set in the apartment of North Tonawanda's only black firefighter who had received a threatening racist letter two days earlier, Mayor Arthur G. Pappas said Thursday.

The cause of the fire "appears to be of a suspicious nature," the mayor said, after meeting with police and fire officials.

Another law enforcement source said Thursday that "no person has been ruled out" as a suspect in the Wednesday afternoon fire at volunteer firefighter Kenneth Walker's apartment.

Here are the latest developments in the case:

  • Investigators with the North Tonawanda Police, FBI and fire investigators are still trying to determine if the fire was linked to a threatening letter that Walker said was left Monday in the mailbox of his Oliver Street apartment. The letter, which used racist slurs, demanded that Walker resign as a firefighter. “We’re investigating the letter and fire as being linked,” North Tonawanda Police Capt. Thomas Krantz said. “We’re not 100 percent certain that one is related to the other. But we’re investigating it as such.”
  • Walker's uncle said fire investigators told Walker's family that the fire appeared suspicious. "They did tell us it appeared to start in the living room and that it was of a suspicious nature. But they didn't say if an accelerant was involved. They gave us no other information," said the uncle, Robert Sands of Buffalo.
  • Sands said his nephew took the day off from his job: "He took the day off and is taking care of his family. They just need a breather."
  • The couch in Walker's apartment was burned to the springs, according to Charles Internicola, the owner of the four-unit apartment building where Walker lived.

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Email: lmichel@buffnews.com

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