Early Monday morning, within one hour, three separate fires were set. The cause of two of them is arson.
All of these homes are within a few blocks of each other, near Niles High School.
The first fire was set at a vacant home, which was up for sale, on Cass Street. The roof caved in and there is extensive damage inside.
45-minute later firefighters got a call about a garage on fire a few blocks away on Louis Street.
That fire spread into the house and to the home next door. The homeowner tells us his grand children were sleeping in the front room when his wife heard a popping sound.
"She got up, she sees the garage on fire, she screams ‘We've got to get out of here!’" Don Meyers recalled.
Everyone got out safely and police are labeling the cause of this fire as undetermined because they couldn't rule out a possible electrical problem.
Ten minutes after responding to this fire, another call came in about another fire at a vacant home around the corner on 13th Street. Firefighters sent one crew and then called for additional mutual aid. At one point, 10 fire departments and over 45 firefighters were working to put out all of these fires.
"One is not unusual," says Niles Fire Capt. Don Wise. "I can believe having a second, but a third one is so unusual. My red flags are flying up. What's going on here?"
Investigators worry they have someone or several people setting random fires, and so they are going to increase their patrols around the city.
"The police department is doing everything they can to get as many boots on the streets as they can in the evening so we can eliminate this problem," stresses Niles detective Rick Krueger.
It’s a problem that appears to be getting worse. On March 14th, the Niles FOP was set on fire, the case remains open. There are also two suspicious residential fires that occurred in January that remain unsolved according to Capt. Wise. So now, with these recent suspicious fires, some residents are concerned for their safety.
"Certainly, it's unnerving,” says longtime Niles resident Don Stone. He and his wife were walking along Louis examining the damaged homes.
"We live in a two-story home with one entrance out. If it's blocked, we would be...yes, it's scary," says Stephanie Stone.
Police are also asking residents to leave a porch light on at night, or put out motion detector lights – and if they see anything or anyone that looks suspicious, to call 9-1-1.
"You need to call us so we can respond and check things out for all the neighbors, so that they feel safe," says Det. Krueger.
One firefighter who complained of chest pains was taken to the hospital. He has been released and is expected to return to work Thursday.