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FIRES UP IN WILLIAMSVILLE, DOWN IN REST OF TOWN

While the number of fires in the Town of Amherst decreased last year, the number of structure fires in the Village of Williamsville more than quadrupled, according to a report from Amherst Fire Dispatch.

In 1999, only three structure fires were reported in the village. Last year, that number jumped to 13.

And overall, the total number of fires last year in Williamsville increased one-tenth, to 33, according to the report.

In the Town of Amherst, outside the village, however, the number of fires actually decreased 9 percent, to 631.

And the number of structure fires in the town decreased nearly one-sixth, to 79, according to Raymond F. Braun, senior fire dispatcher for Amherst Fire Dispatch, who compiled the annual report. The agency handles dispatching for 16 local fire companies, covering a number of towns, from Lancaster to Newstead.

An exact dollar amount on the total damage of those fires was difficult to ascertain, officials said, since individual fire companies keep their own separate records, and not all use the same system for keeping records.

A number of those structure fires, however, caused damage in the six-digit range.

One of the worst was the Oct. 22 fire at Black Cat Computer Co., which caused an estimated $590,000 damage at 6020 N. Bailey Ave. Amherst police are continuing to investigate that fire as an arson.

That fire was one of four arsons in the town in 2000.

"Arsons remain fairly constant (from year to year)," said Detective Michael Dailey, who investigates fires. "It just so happens that three of the four arsons in 2000 happened in one month."

Besides the Black Cat fire, two other arsons occurred within about a week: 5488 Sheridan Drive, where a fire Oct. 26 destroyed a vacant house insured for $85,000.

5770 Sheridan, where a fire Oct. 28 caused $65,000 damage to a house and $25,000 to its contents.

The fourth arson involved a car that was burned in May at 575 Alberta Drive.

Amherst police have not made any arrests in any of last year's arsons, Dailey said. He noted that nationally, only about 6 percent of arsons eventually are solved.

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