Schenectady fires under investigation

Emily Burkhard
Updated: November 27, 2019 07:22 PM
Created: November 27, 2019 06:20 PM

SCHENECTADY - Investigators are looking into a string of fires that happened in the Upper Union Street neighborhood on Tuesday. It's believed they were set intentionally.

The damage was minimal and no one was hurt, but officials said the fires could have been a lot worse. Now they're trying to find who's responsible.


Peter Heinegg said a bystander was driving on West Alley when they saw his garbage cans on fire behind his garage. The bystander came around the front of Heinegg's house to alert him. Heinegg and his neighbors quickly put out the flames. He said he could see lighter fluid on the ground around the burning cans.

Heinegg said it could've been much worse had there not been damp leaves and a wet rug right where the fire was set.

"If the leaves had been dry, this whole area would've been engulfed," Heinegg said.

Heinegg has lived in his home for over 40 years. He said he's never experienced anything like this.

"You know, there's petty vandalism from time to time but this is the scariest thing so far," Heinegg said.

Schenectady police and fire officials believe six or seven fires were deliberately set between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Most of them were on East, West and Central Alleys.

Investigators said they don't know if it was arson yet, but they did call the fires suspicious.

"Right now we are in the early stages of an active investigation. The fire department along with the police department along with our ATF partners, the school district, we are all involved in putting this together," Schenectady Fire Assistant Chief Don Mareno said.

No suspects have been named, but neighbors said high school students typically use the alleys during lunch hours.

"Detectives are obviously working with people in the school systems being that we do have two schools in close proximity," Sgt. Jeff McCutcheon said. "We can't say now that students set the fire. We have no clue who did, but we're just trying to gather as much information as we can and we'll make a decision from there."

McCutcheon said they also plan to increase patrols in the area.

In the meantime, neighbors are feeling uneasy.

"We might, in fact get cameras but you know that wouldn't have stopped it probably," Heinegg said. "You know because it takes no time at all to do what they did. Just going to be more nervous and more careful."

If you know anything about the fires, you should contact the Schenectady Arson Task Force either on Facebook or at (518) 382-5141 x 5815.

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