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Riverside man arrested in Grant Street arson spree

Buffalo fire marshals arrested a Riverside man late Friday and accused him of setting the series of fires on Grant Street Thursday morning that injured three firefighters and one police officer.

Alister M. Bouvart, 26, was accused of setting 10 West Side fires. He was arrested at his Laird Avenue home by fire marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“He was brought to the fire marshals’ office and told investigators of his involvement in the fires,” said Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield Jr.

Following questioning by the marshals, Bouvart was charged with seven counts of arson in the fifth degree, three counts of arson in the fourth degree and reckless endangerment in the first degree and criminal mischief in the third degree.

A series of 10 fires set by one person is rare, Whitfield said.

“This one was different because we had one person that set several fires in a very short period of time,” Whitfield said. “It took a lot of work, it took a lot of manpower and hours and energy and assets to track him down but this goes on a daily basis in the city of Buffalo.”

Bouvart’s motive is unknown, and he does not have a prior criminal history, Whitfield said.

A Facebook page belonging to Bouvart indicates he is a graduate of Riverside Institute of Technology, where he studied graphic design, and a dishwasher at the Essex Street Pub. The page also indicates he once worked at the Central Branch of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.

The fires he is accused of setting began between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m. Thursday. The allegation is that Bouvart set fire to rubbish piles, trash containers and donation boxes, some near structures. Three buildings caught fire, the worst at 472 Grant St., where the damage exceeded $200,000. The damage from all 10 fires was $225,000, Whitfield said.

The injured firefighters and police officer have been treated and released. Two firefighters suffered burns on their neck and ears that made it difficult to wear their gear, and they are at home recuperating. A third was treated and released at the scene, Whitfield said. The police officer was treated for smoke inhalation and is OK, he said.

Investigators used surveillance cameras to track the progression of the fires. The ATF aided in the investigation, said Frank Christiano, ATF resident agent in charge.

Mayor Byron W. Brown, in announcing the arrest at a news conference today at Buffalo fire headquarters, credited footage captured by surveillance cameras owned by the city and by private citizens for helping fire investigators identify a suspect.

“The tips that came in from the public, that played a major role in getting to the point of the arrest,” Brown said.