North Tonawanda police this afternoon released the image of a suspect in the rash of early morning fires in the Tonawandas.
A 10-second video footage from a surveillance camera at Lent Builders, located in a plaza on 228 Zimmerman, shows the image the young man.
Firefighters battled at least nine separate blazes overnight in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda, North Tonawanda police said.
The North Tonawanda blazes started in quick succession between 11:30 p.m. and 1:08 a.m. and all are considered suspicious, as they appear to have started in cars parked outside and then spread to nearby houses.
A call alerting City of Tonawanda fire crews of a fire on Enterprise Avenue came in shortly after 2 a.m.
One blaze, reported around 1 a.m., heavily damaged a three-story apartment building at 208 Goundry St. in North Tonawanda. A vehicle in the building’s parking lot had been set on fire. The fires shocked neighbors.
“I’m very scared because I just moved here and I thought I lived in a safe area,” Susan Blasko said this morning.
Other fires involving homes and cars occurred on Ganson Street, Zimmerman Street and Ransom Street in North Tonawanda, according to North Tonawanda police.
North Tonawanda assistant chief fire chief Richard Kozak offered the following timeline for the other fires:
• The first fire reported was at 11:29 p.m. in a dumpster behind Tops at 301 Meadow,
• 12:27 a.m.: Vehicle in a driveway on Zimmerman was set on fire, scorching both homes, at 254 and 258.
• 12:27 a.m. 236 Zimmerman, two small fires in garbage totes adjacent to and behind a building in a strip plaza.
• 1:04 a.m.: a vehicle was set on fire between 86 and 92 Ransom, scorching both houses.
• 1:08 a.m. a vehicle at 49 Ganson was set on fire and spread to the house
• no time, a garbage tote at 58 Ganson was set on fire
A car fire spread and caused damage to two houses on Enterprise Avenue in the City of Tonawanda, said Assistant Fire Chief Mark Schulte of the City of Tonawanda Fire Department.
The fire is considered suspicious, although not yet ruled an arson, and it is not clear whether it is related to the fires in North Tonawanda.
A silver Chevrolet Cavalier, parked between the houses at 51 and 55 Enterprise, caught fire, damaging the front of the house at 55 Enterprise and a window at the other house.
City of Tonawanda and Grand Island fire crews responded to the fire, called in at 2:06 a.m., Schulte said.
The interior of the car was destroyed.
It’s the only fire reported overnight in the City of Tonawanda.
Robert Zirnheld, who lives across the street from the damaged houses, said he heard an explosion and came outside to check what happened.
“I thought it was a firework because we’ve been having kids pull pranks in the neighborhood for about a month,” Zirnheld said.
Once outside, he saw the car again explode, shooting a piece of the car toward the house at 51 Enterprise.
Zirnheld and his wife, Rita, looked on as family members and friends of the victims showed up on Enterprise Avenue. Police and fire crews had left the scene by mid-morning.
“Our neighborhood is usually fairly quiet,” Rita Zirnheld said.