Alleged Scranton Arsonist Behind Bars

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SCRANTON, Pa. -- The man police believe torched an abandoned home in Scranton is locked up, and investigators believe he's responsible for a string of fires in the city's south side.

Police say John Olszewski, 52, of Scranton, set fire to an empty house on Palm Street in the overnight hours earlier this month. Those living in the neighborhood say they were on edge, but they are now relieved the alleged arsonist is behind bars.

"Anybody who was going to set my house on fire, I would be very broken-hearted," said Tom Roberts of Scranton.

"I have three kids, and when that happens that is pretty scary, especially for parents," said Tom Miller of Scranton.

It wasn't long after fire crews found flames shooting from the empty home on Palm Street that police were able to pin a person of interest after surveillance video showed a man on a bicycle near the scene. A tip led investigators to Olszewski because he owns the same kind of bike.

"That house has been abandoned for a while, and I know someone who was going to fix it up, and all of a sudden it's on fire," said Joseph Cawley of Scranton.

The Scranton fire marshal says Olszewski is suspected in other arsons going back to late April, but those fires are still under investigation.

This isn't Olszewski's first arson charge. He was arrested for arson in Luzerne County in 1998 and served 16 years in state prison.

"It's good for Scranton. It is good for south side, and I commend the police department for doing that. They did a good job," Miller added.

Olszewski is facing charges of arson and reckless endangerment. He remains locked up in the Lackawanna County prison.


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