Hammond officials investigating blaze at business in area hit by arsons

2013-05-17T18:30:00Z 2013-05-18T00:00:05Z Hammond officials investigating blaze at business in area hit by arsonsLauri Harvey Keagle lauri.keagle@nwi.com, (219) 852-4311 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | Hammond fire investigators are probing a blaze at a used car lot early Friday in a neighborhood plagued by a series of arsons.

Deputy Fire Chief Kevin Margraf said a Hammond police officer reported the fire at Great Lakes Auto Sales, 5605 Calumet Ave., about 2:30 a.m.

The officer was driving in the alley behind the business and saw flames under a stairwell leading to a second-story office.

"We got it knocked down really quickly, like 30 minutes," Margraf said.

Margraf said the business owner told investigators he has insurance on the building, which sustained significant structural damage from melting vinyl siding, aluminum soffit and collapsed rafters.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Margraf said the business had working video surveillance and the city's video cameras were positioned nearby. Investigators are poring over video in hopes of finding clues to the cause of the blaze, he said.

The fire marks the seventh suspicious fire in the neighborhood west of the city's downtown since Easter, all occurring at similar times with similar circumstances.

The previous fires were ruled arsons.

The first arson occurred at 5714 Erie St. just before midnight March 31. Three hours later, crews were called to a fire at 623 Sibley St.

On April 2, firefighters were called to a fire in the rear of a building at 950 State St. At 3 a.m. April 7, firefighters responded to 855 Sibley St. for a fire in the rear of the building.

Another 3 a.m. fire took place April 9 at the rear of a building at 855 State St.

At 5:30 a.m. April 22, firefighters were called to a former auto repair shop at 658 Sibley St.

No one was injured in any of the blazes. Most occurred at vacant rental properties.

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