Peninsula — The Division of State Fire Marshal is seeking the public’s assistance in solving a string of arson cases at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
There have been 10 fires over the past five months in different areas of the park including Brecksville, Independence, Peninsula and on hiking trails. Investigators believe that the fires may be related.
The spree of fires began with a barn fire at the Spicy Lamb Farm in Peninsula March 4 with a total loss of $150,000. Firefighters responded to a Cuyahoga Valley National Park train car engulfed in flames April 26 in Brecksville. The fire chief said at the time the blaze was suspicious and under investigation.
On April 22 a fire occurred on the railroad tracks north of Lock 29 in Peninsula followed on April 27 by a fire on the west side of the railroad tracks between mileposts 42 and 42.5 in Akron. On May 4 another fire occurred on the east side of the railroad tracks north of the Pleasant Valley overpass in Independence and on May 11 a fire on the west side of the railroad tracks between mileposts 59 and 59.5 was reported in Brecksville.
Three fires were set in June beginning with a small ground litter fire June 3 near the Ledges in Kendall Park in Peninsula and a fire in a hollowed out oak tree at the Ledges on June 10.
The historical Lypchynski House on Riverview Road was a target June 21 in Independence.
The most recent incident was on July 23 at a residence located at 6100 Stanford Road in Peninsula.
All of the structures are owned by the park, according to Lindsey Burnworth, public information officer for the Ohio Department of Commerce, Division of State Fire Marshal.
The fire July 23 caused $30,000 in damage to the inside of the home and garage, Burnworth said.
“Investigators said the fires are out of the ordinary for the area, and that is why they believe they are connected,” Burnworth said. “Typically, there aren’t many fires in that area.”
Multiple fire departments including Valley Fire District, Valley View Fire Department, Independence Fire Department, Brecksville Fire Department, Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department and Akron Fire Department responded to the Standford Road fire with mutual aid being provided by neighboring departments.
The investigations are being conducted in conjunction with National Park Service, Community Emergency Response Team, Brecksville Police Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the numerous responding fire departments.
A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered by the Blue Ribbon Arson Committee for information leading to the identification of the person or persons responsible for the fires. Additionally, the Summit County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $2,000 for tips that lead to the arrest and indictment of the person or persons responsible.
“Information from the public is crucial to solving these kinds of cases,” said State Fire Marshal Larry Flowers. “Investigators want to hear from anyone who saw something out of the ordinary at or around the time of the fire or who may have heard someone speaking about the fire with an unusual level of interest or knowledge.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the State Fire Marshal’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Bureau at 1-800-589-2728, the Summit County Crime Stoppers at 330-434-COPS (2677) or Cuyahoga County Crime Stoppers at 216-252-7463. Text a tip to 274637 (CRIMES) or email a tip at www.tipsubmit.com/webtips.aspx?AgencyID=1156.
Facebook: Laura Freeman, Record Publishing