WNYNewsNow Reflects On Arson Spree

JAMESTOWN-Six arson-based structure fires spread emergency personnel thin throughout the northside between Thursday evening and Saturday morning. WNYNewsNow was along for the ride as crews fought each blaze.

I, myself, attended four of the six fires this weekend. I missed Thursday evening’s fire at 621 E. 6th St. as I was unable to leave a prior engagement. (Thank you, Justin and Ryan!) I also missed the fire at 220 Crossman St. early Saturday morning because I had to rush for our power supplies at our office.

I had plenty of time to catch up at the other four fires constantly having to shield my face from the worst smoke I’ve ever smelled. The rest of the gang had similar experiences with the smoke. I can only imagine what the firefighters undergo with each fire, especially as they were heavily labored deep into the night.

Sixth fire on W. 10th St just after 2AM Saturday.

After the final fire at W. 10th St. at 2 A.M., our crew split for awhile to finish our on-scene coverage at each blaze. I went to our office at 3:30 A.M. to regroup and refresh as I anticipated another blaze that thankfully never occurred. Justin Gould and Storm Harttman soon joined me, and we collaborated on a final report which also included Ryan Hedrick’s work throughout the evening.

We all went home around 5:30 after publishing our report, eager to get some rest for the next day.

I decided to stay up again Saturday night, listening to the scanner until almost 3:30 A.M. Fortunately, the city was relatively calm.

I want to thank all of the firefighters, police and other emergency personnel who were involved throughout the long night. The workers were above reproach even through the difficult circumstances. Crews were also on standby Saturday evening in case the fires continued.

If you see something, say something. Call 911. If you have information on a potential suspect, leave an anonymous tip at 716-483-TIPS (8477)

Ryan Hedrick: I’ve reported on several serious incidents in this city over the last few years. Fortunately, I’ve been able to separate myself from the emotion of the story.

Friday was very different. I was disappointed to learn that very few people came forward with information for law enforcement. I get that people are ashamed and disgusted by the number of abandoned buildings in the city, but that doesn’t give somebody the right to burn them to the ground. These houses are right next to occupied homes with families living in them.

The fires scared community members who wondered what was next while taking a heavy toll on first responders.  I personally have never been associated with something like Friday’s events.  The work of the Jamestown Fire Department was something I’ll never forget. The department’s resiliency and dedication to the community  saved other homes and prevented injuries.  It’s our responsibility to care for the community and  ESPECIALLY OUR KIDS.

No one person is more important than this city. There’s two ways we could go from this. We either unite and help the police track down the person or persons responsible for this or we divide and let the city continue to crumble. If you see something, please say something!

Justin Gould: Reporting isn’t just a job. It’s an art form and a calling. The fiery stretch separated the wannabe reporters with the pros. Being “on the job” 24/7 isn’t for everyone. I can assure you, WNYNewsNow isn’t your average news team.

Let’s start from the beginning. Ryan and I sometimes carpool, and Thursday was just another evening. We were on our way home after an average day when I noticed a big, black cloud of smoke hovering above the city.

I soon realized the oddity of this blaze after arriving to the scene of 621 E. 6th St. No house goes up three times in one month.

This was arson.

Brian and I were the first media members on scene of reported smoke coming from a 5th St. garage Friday around noon, just blocks from the previous night’s blaze.

My phone began to go haywire around 11 PM Friday evening as calls from across the city poured into our news desk line.

Third fire at 6th and Winsor just after 11PM Friday.

Matt and Ryan were already on scene of the 6th and Winsor fire as I arrived in my pajamas.

We stopped our broadcast as crews began to subdue the blaze. Going our separate ways I went home with hopes of hitting the hey.

I was not so lucky. I got another call as I sat down on the couch to decompress.

From Crossman to 11th St. I was on my own for a bit as Ryan made his way back. Hummel was tasked with getting a power cube as my phone was getting low.

The night went on as we went full tilt. Our newest addition, Storm Hartmann, and I went back to the Crossman blaze to shoot some BRoll after the 10th St. fire. We then patrolled the city, keeping our eyes on the sky for smoke.

We eventually met up with Hummel to work on a feature story outlining all activity in the last 24 hours.

Is arson the new epidemic? Many onlookers shared similar expressions.

“Man I love fires!,” one mother told us at the 6th and Winsor blaze.

Kids jumped  in front of my camera at the fire on Crossman saying how cool it is to be on “TV.”

Fifth fire near 30 W. 11th St. started as debris burning then onlookers noticed smoke from the nearby structure.

I can’t forget to mention the group who made it to the 11th St. blaze before first responders as smoke leaked out of the structure. I felt helpless, scared and alone. I hoped there would be enough manpower available.

I almost volunteered Friday even without experience.

I know these people mean well but a fully engulfed house isn’t “cool” especially when arson is involved.

I may sound hypocritical calling these people out because in a sense we do the same thing.  However, this is our job as trained journalists. We can’t and wont jump to conclusions that could lead police on a wild goose chase to fires that never even happened.

Firefighters, police and EMTs risk their lives rushing to something that could have been prevented. Our headline early Saturday morning was spot on. “If You See Something, Say Something” JPD Tipline: (716) 483-8477.

Talking to the police doesn’t make you a snitch. It makes you a stand up citizen.

This won’t stop until someone is caught, seriously hurt, or worse.

Storm Harttman: I was told about the 11th St. fire while arriving at the Crossman fire. I went to join the crew on 11th and came to see a building engulfed in flames as crews fought to put them out. Just as I arrived at 11th, we received the false alarm at 22nd st.

About 15 mins later, I heard people screaming about another fire a block over. Upon arrival, the building had just started to smoke from the roof. A few bystanders started waking up the neighbors of the burning house to make sure they got out safely.

Crews arrived to fight the blaze. I was shocked that either one or more people were responsible for every fire that happened that night. I am certain we have a problem in the town and hope police are able to apprehend whoever is responsible.

Brian Crawford: Justin and I noticed the fire trucks Friday afternoon on 5th St. Once we were near the garage, we saw that the fire was almost contained on the top floor.

It’s unnatural to have so many fires so quickly. I figured there was an arson Friday evening, but we couldn’t be sure officially.