Leaders in the Lackawanna Muslim community Thursday announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for a suspicious fire last month in an apartment house that sent seven people to the hospital.
The predawn fire on April 22 routed four families of immigrants from a four-unit building at 97 Ingham St.
On Thursday, community leaders gathered at the scene to express concern over the speed of the investigation into the fire that occurred nearly three weeks ago. Present were: Abdulsalam Noman, First Ward Councilman; Anwar Al-Kalai, president of Lackawanna Islamic Mosque; Khalid Qazi from the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York; Mohamed Albana, businessman, and State Sen. Timothy Kennedy.
The investigation is being conducted by the Erie County Sheriff's Office, Central Police Services Forensic Laboratory and the Lackawanna Police Department.
Three family members – including a 3-year-old boy – remain hospitalized Wednesday.
Zaid Soliman, 3, is hospitalized at Strong Memorial Hospital's Pediatric Burn Unit in Rochester after undergoing skin graft surgery for third-degree burns suffered on his legs and arm, said Yaser Soliman, the boy's uncle.
- Khaled Soliman, 29, is at Long-Term Care at Terrace View on the ECMC Heath Campus. He is recovering from injuries to his spine and a crushed foot suffered when he jumped from a second-floor window to the pavement with Zaid in his arms.
- Claudia Chamo Soliman, 28, is the most seriously injured, said family members. She remains in critical condition in the ECMC Burn Unit after Lackawanna firefighters pulled her and her 4-year-old son unconscious from the burning structure. Claudia remained in critical condition recovering from third-degree burns and surgery to her trachea. Relatives said she is no longer on a respirator and is conscious, but the damage she suffered from the sustained lack of oxygen has yet to be determined.
From the start, Lackawanna Fire Chief Ralph Galanti determined the fire to be "suspicious." On Thursday, a source close to the investigation confirmed that an accelerant was used in the fire. In addition, another suspicious fire had been reported at the same location on April 7. In that case, a telephone book in flames was found on the structure's front porch.
"We don't know why it is taking so long to classify the fire an arson or not," said Al-Kalai, president of Lackawanna Islamic Mosque. "We're still waiting for the investigation to be completed."
Al-Kalai said the apartment building is one of six residences in Lackawanna owned by the mosque. All provide housing to newly arrived immigrants.
"The thing is about these fires is that they usually happen in strings," said Yaser Soliman. "Someone has tried to burn this building to the ground twice. He's still out there and we're out there, too, encouraging people to come forward with information."
Those with information about the fire are asked to call Lackawanna police at 822.4900.