Officials say it’s beyond coincidence–it’s arson.
Three fires in the trash chute of the Rose Hill Towers Apartments in Bellaire have all been ruled arson.
The Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office as well as Bellaire fire and police departments are jointly investigating.
They say the arsonist endangered more than 100 lives.
The complex contains 83 apartments, six stories high, with many elderly and disabled tenants.
“Of course when a fire starts, the elevators shut down so everybody has to use the stairwells,” said Chief Bill Swoyer of the Bellaire Volunteer Fire Department.
There are only two doors to the outside, one of them unable to be used when these arsons occur.
“Because that’s where the trash chute is–in the back where the doors are,” explained Chief Swoyer.
Some say it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
There are currently no working surveillance cameras.
“We had a company in here this morning about installing cameras throughout the building,” said Jody Geese, executive director of the Belmont Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Rules that currently allow visitors in and out are now being tightened.
“If you do not live here and you’re here, you’d better have a good reason,” said Chief Mike Kovalyk of the Bellaire Police Department. “People are going to be monitored.”
And the chute where the arsonist is dropping flaming objects onto piles of trash had no sprinklers.
“Belmont Housing is today installing a sprinkler system inside the chute,” said Chief Swoyer.
People say they’d like to see security guards on site more often.
“At least patrol a little better so we’d feel safer,” said Connie Ball, resident.
“We share their fear,” said Jody Geese. “We share their concern. We’re doing absolutely everything we can.”
And the biggest weapon of all is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arsonist’s arrest and conviction.
“Well, trust me,” said John Bumgardner, a Rose Hill resident, “If I find out who it is, I’ll be collecting the money, because like I say, I’m tired of it!”
“We’ll get you,” said Chief Swoyer, regarding the arsonist. “It’s just a matter of time. Somebody will tell on you. Somebody did see something. We’ll get you.”