West Hazleton Fire Ruled Arson

West Hazleton fire officials said a blaze early Wednesday morning which endangered the lives of nine people is a case of arson.

Police are following leads hoping to catch the fire bug.

Firefighters were called out in the early morning hours to an apartment building on South Broad Street in West Hazleton.

A mattress on the outside of the building was set on fire and flames started to spread to the rest of the structure.

Later in the day state and local police met with fire officials. They said had the blaze spread, it could have been a tragedy.

“Had this gone any further inside the structure there is every reason to believe there would be major structural damage and possible loss of life,” said West Hazleton Assistant Fire Chief Brian Cara.

Nine people live in eight apartments.  They are upset and want the firebug caught.

“I think if I catch the (person) I’ll chop his hands off,” said Jim Schagen. “I think what we got to do is put a guy on watch at night to watch for guys setting fires. If he set one here he can set one somewhere else.”

“I think people are shook up enough because of what happened. I think the people who started it is hiding,” said Art Burnhauser.

Fire investigators are suggesting that until the firebug is caught, people should be cautious.

“Anybody who has the mind-set to do this once will try and do it again. We hope that won’t happen,” said West Hazleton Fire Chief Dennis Ganc. If you hear something in the middle of the night, look and if you’re not sure call 911, get us out there.”

Police said they do have several leads they are running down hoping to find the person who set the potentially deadly fire.