A firefighter motions to his crew while trying to cut through the roof of one of the row houses in the 200 block Walnut Street that burned during an
A firefighter motions to his crew while trying to cut through the roof of one of the row houses in the 200 block Walnut Street that burned during an afternoon fire Thursday, April 11, 2013. Three of the houses are abandoned. (Bill Kalina photo / bkalina@yorkdispatch.com)

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries Thursday afternoon battling a three-alarm blaze in four York City row houses.

The fire started on the first floor rear of 236 Walnut St. and has been ruled an arson, said city fire Capt. Chad Deardorff.

He declined to say what was found to make that determination, but said the incident is under police investigation. A state police fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate.

York City Fire Chief David Michaels said the fire affected 234, 236, 238 and 240 Walnut St. A man at 240 Walnut St. has been displaced, and the three other houses are vacant, according to the chief.

The fire caused a total of about $80,000 in damage to the four properties, Deardorff said.

Two city firefighters and a York Area United firefighter were treated at the scene, Michaels said - one for a minor cut, one for a twisted knee and the third for heat exhaustion.

Neighbors said there's been trouble before at the vacant homes.

DeWayne Jones, 41, of Gas Avenue, said there have been problems with kids going into the abandoned houses, at least one of which is boarded up.

Daryl Newman, 44, of 240 Walnut St., is now at least temporarily homeless.

Michaels said the York-Adams chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting him.

Kids involved? While at the scene, Newman stood at the backyard gate of his property, watching firefighters check the burned homes. He said he was told by neighbors that they chased away a group of kids from 234 Walnut St. several days ago after it appeared the kids were trying to start something on fire.

"Maybe they finally succeeded in what they wanted to do, but people live here," Newman said.

Newman said it appeared flames were moving toward his attic.

"My dog started whining and carrying on," he said. "Then I heard the fire trucks coming up."

He looked outside and saw a lot of smoke, which is when firefighters told him he needed to get out of his home, he said.

A York City firefighter takes a break after battling at three-alarm blaze in the 200 block of Walnut Street on Thursday, April 11, 2013.
A York City firefighter takes a break after battling at three-alarm blaze in the 200 block of Walnut Street on Thursday, April 11, 2013. (Bill Kalina)

Got dog: Newman went back inside to retrieve his 1-year-old pit bull, Mamagirl, then got out, he said.

"I'm hoping I don't lose my home," he said. "I pray to God I don't."

Newman said he's lived there for 20 years, and that years ago there was a fire at 234 Walnut St.

"And I got water damage then," he said. "But this time it's worse."

Michaels said he's unsure whether Newman's attic sustained fire damage, but said the home did sustain "fire-control damage," meaning firefighters had to open walls and a ceiling to search for possible fire extension.

'It was crazy': Jones said he called 911 after a neighbor told him she saw smoke coming from one of the homes. Crews were dispatched about 2:25 p.m., according to the York County 911 Center.

At first, Jones could only see a little smoke, then saw smoke begin to pour from the home, he said.

"And then it just engulfed," Jones said. "It was crazy. It happened fast - real fast."

Neighbor Corey Shoff of Gas Avenue was walking home when she saw fire trucks race by her, then saw smoke, she said.

Both she and a friend with her thought it was Shoff's home burning, and Shoff ran down the alley, which is when she realized her home was safe, she said.

"I'm relieved, but at the same time I was worried about who might be in the houses," she said. "I didn't know (two of them were) abandoned."

'Labor intensive': Michaels said it took an hour for firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

"It was a labor-intensive fire," the chief said.

The blaze went to three alarms because of the amount of fire and the fact that extra manpower was needed, according to Michaels.

More than 50 firefighters worked the scene. Some of the burned areas flared up as wind moved through Thursday evening, but firefighters contained the small flames, Deardorff said. Firefighters cleared the scene at 8:30 p.m., he said.

Crews from other departments, including North York, Manchester Township, West Manchester Township, Strinestown and the York Area United Fire and Rescue, assisted at the scene.

- Dispatch staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo contributed to this story.