Just your friendly neighborhood arson

Update: Police have made an arrest, charging a local man with two counts of arson and one count of burning a building to defraud an insurer. The man was first seen in the neighborhood when a resident dialed the police to report someone with serious burns. The man was allegedly crying and asked the resident where he could find water before running off. Soon after, smoke was seen coming from the vacant house. Later in the evening, authorities responded to calls about a man with severe burns in a neighboring town.  As the man is not an owner of the house, the next question is who enlisted him to burn it. He is currently receiving medical treatment. More to come.

Original post as follows: On my drive home last night, something smelled odd. The air seemed smoky, almost like an old fireplace. As I opened the back door, I noticed black clouds billowing above. I peered around the corner and this is what I saw.

Fire Brookline Chestnut Hill Spooner Road House Illegal Arson Boston Massachusetts MA Picture Photo After Weekly Show

The house across the street.

The massive blaze tore through the vacant house across the street, incinerating the lot and much of the surrounding brush. Seeing such a huge fire up close is absolutely terrifying, especially in your own neighborhood. It sounded like something you’d have in the fireplace, except much, much bigger with an almost inhuman crackling. The glow is petrifying as well, menacing yet mesmerizing at the same time. Firefighters worked for hours to contain the fire, ringing three neighboring towns for backup before putting it out around midnight. Miraculously, no residents or firefighters were hurt.

Almost everyone in the neighborhood thinks this was arson. The house has been the center of a nasty legal battle for years. Developers originally bought the land and split it into two lots, constructing a new house next to the old one. The smaller lots brought both buildings in violation of zoning laws for being too large, and while the town gave the old house a free pass because it had been built in accordance with its original lot, it denied the new construction an occupancy permit. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court later upheld the decision. As the lawsuit has raged, the house has deteriorated into an eyesore.

Here’s where things get crazy: a firefighter told us next morning police had a young man in custody. The suspect had burns on seventy percent of his body and was reportedly intubated (this particularly sassy firefighter guessed the guy “didn’t know the whole ‘drop and roll’ thing”). Though the Boston Fire Marshall confirmed the fire was caused by an incendiary, no other news has surfaced from the investigation. In fact, there has been no official mention of the suspect, though both a firefighter and police officer confirmed it to onlookers the next day.

Fire Brookline Chestnut Hill Spooner Road House Illegal Arson Boston Massachusetts MA Picture Photo After Weekly Show

By morning only a shell of the house remained.

Convenient fires are suspicious, and the evidence seems to indicate this was professionally done. I agree with most people in the neighborhood in saying it sounds like a familiar story. That said, I hesitate to jump to conclusions. Maybe this kid liked to hang out in the empty house so he could be alone. Perhaps he’s a stoner who went there to get high and ended up caught in the flames. Maybe an angry neighbor tired of the eyesore (the town committee had gone on record saying “the structure does not contribute to the character” of our historic district). Anything is possible.

A funny side effect of the fire is how it has brought the neighborhood together. My family has lived here for twenty years, and standing outside that night I met neighbors I have never seen. People who live around the corner appeared in front of my house and asked me who I was. Even the guy everyone hates from across the street showed up (he avoids all of us and leaves rude notes if people park on the street because apparently it belongs to him. He says he has lived here for forty-three years and didn’t seem bothered by the fact he’s never seen any of us). All of a sudden there is a community here.

So my last twenty-four hours have been pretty off the wall. I’ve never seen a fire that big so close, and I never imagined it would happen in my neighborhood. It’s also pretty scary to think that there was possibly an arsonist one street over. Have you guys ever experienced a fire like that? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories. As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. That small click really helps me out! Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!

Click here for last week’s post: Here, have some free music and butterflies!

Other related articles:

6 Infamous Arsonists and How They Got Caught (Mental Floss)

20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Fire (Discover Magazine)

Home Fire Safety (Red Cross) [Guide and home safety tips]

Picture This: You’re Playing a Game of Russian Roulette [Does this type of thinking put you in danger?]

Don’t Click This Link


Comment question of the week

Have you ever been close to a fire like this? What was it like?


3 thoughts on “Just your friendly neighborhood arson

  1. There was a strip mall under my apartment building years ago and we only found out when we were woken up by choking thick black smoke. A fast food restaurant went up in flames. The Firies were too busy putting it out to alert residents (we were actually in a separate building and the black smoke was probably too hard to see at 3 am). Anyway, we could not stay in our apartment for a week until the smell cleared.

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    • Hey, figtree23! That sounds terrifying. Was there smoke damage to the apartment? I’ve heard stories of rooms escaping the fire but being ruined by soot.

      It was really scary to watch the smoke travel over the neighborhood as the house burned. The trees form a canopy over many of the roads, and you could see embers glowing in the clouds. If it hadn’t rained the day before, it’s unnerving to think of what else could have gone up in flames. We were about leave the house when the firefighters showed up and stopped the the fire from advancing.

      Thanks, I’m glad you enjoy the blog! I have a few science posts in the works, so you can expect to see more in the near future. I think I will revisit some astrophysics and astronomy as well.

      I have checked out your blog! I like the material, especially the recent post about what kind of world parents are leaving for their kids. I look forward to reading more!

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