OLEAN — City police are investigating suspicious burning bags of rubbish that started fires at three sites in the West End early Sunday morning.
At 2:10 a.m., city firefighters were called out for a commercial building fire at 1617 W. State St. Upon arrival, firefighters extinguished a blaze which was in a garage door and the framing of the building. Crews reported the fire was started by a bag of what appeared to be a bag of household-type trash which had been set on fire. About $2,000 in damage was done to the door and nearby framing.
While on the scene, two other calls were reported — one under the rear porch of 108 S. 16th St. and another on the front porch of 116 S. 16th St. The two properties are separated by a vacant lot. Firefighters quickly put out the fire at 108 S. 16th St., while a resident extinguished the fire at 116 S. 16th St. with a household dry-chemical fire extinguisher.
“It’s always important to have working fire extinguishers in your house,” city Fire Chief Tim Richardson said, noting quick work by firefighters and the resident stopped serious damage from occurring. “Damages were relatively minor.”
City police assisted firefighters, and the last units left the area at 4:24 a.m.
The fires — due to proximity, timeframe and identical methods of ignition — are being treated as connected incidents. The city’s Fire Investigation Team has finished its investigation and turned the matter over to city police, Richardson said. Anyone with information should call the City of Olean Police Department at 376-5677.
“We want to remind residents that have security cameras on their homes or businesses to check them from time to time to ensure they are operational and that they have good batteries,” Richardson said.
Cattaraugus County property records indicate 1617 W. State St. is owned by Iron Owl Asset Management LLC of Belfast, which purchased it in 2019. The structure was built in 1942 and the property has an assessed value of around $87,000. The property is vacant, Richardson said, recently going up for lease. Records indicate 108 S. 16th St. is a rental property owned by Thomas Smith of Olean, who purchased it in 2000. The single-residence structure was built in 1930 and is assessed at $40,000. Records indicate 116 S. 16th St. is an owner-occupied home owned by Jessica Lunn, who purchased the property in 2020. The house was built in 1885 and is assessed at $50,000.
The fires came less than 48 hours after another suspicious fire was reported. That fire, at 511 N. Seventh St., was reported in the early morning hours Friday. The fire in the vacant, boarded-up home was deemed suspicious and the cause is still under investigation, Richardson said Monday.