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Two Akron houses on the same street go up in flames in a span of two days

Posted at 1:17 PM, Aug 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-20 18:18:07-04

The Akron Fire Department's arson unit is investigating two suspicious house fires that happened on the same street over the weekend.

The first fire happened at 601 Chittenden St., shortly after 7 p.m. on Friday.

The second fire happened next door at 597 Chittenden St. around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday.

No injuries were reported in either blaze.

In the first fire, John Staubs and Amanda Werner were sleeping when Staubs was startled by loud crashing noises.

"I saw that the entire upstairs was on fire, like multiple areas, the living room, the kitchen, the dining room like somebody made a bunch of bonfires," Staubs said.

Staubs woke up Werner, and the friends scrambled out of the rental property in the East Akron neighborhood.

"By the time I got up, the whole house was pretty much done for," Werner said. "I would have died."

The next night, Staubs and Werner were stunned when they learned the house next door to them burned down.

"We think it's kind of odd that our house burns down on Friday night and then the neighbor's house burns down Saturday night, which our heart goes out to them," Staubs said.

Nobody was at 597 Chittenden St. when the fire started, according to Lt. Sierjie Lash, a spokeswoman for the department.

Neighbors said people lived there, but were in the process of moving out.

Staubs and Werner believe an arsonist is to blame for both fires and they've given the name of a possible suspect to fire investigators.

"I feel sorry for them actually," Werner said. "I'm not sure how - I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I had done something like that."

Lt. Lash said neither case has been labeled an arson at this time, but the proximity of the fires is one reason firefighters are suspicious.

According to a fire report, a five-gallon gas can was recovered as possible evidence from the second fire.

"Our investigative unit is working very hard and diligently to examine the evidence, make sure they evaluate it properly," Lash said.

Ronald Waddy, who lives across the street, took a picture of the first fire and captured video of the second fire.

He also told investigators that he overheard a man threatening to burn down 601 Chittenden one day before the house caught fire.

"Hopefully, they just catch the guy. Get him off the streets," Waddy said. "We have to keep our heads on swivel. Protect our children and just stay safe."

Franita Cooper lives next door to 597 Chittenden. She said fear over the fires is forcing her to leave the neighborhood.

"We are scared. We have not had no sleep. Our grandkids can't sleep," Cooper said. "We feel that we are not safe, so yeah, we're gonna move."