Abandoned house fire in Manchester ruled arson

John Joyce, 505-5432/@JohnJoyceYD
  • The fire that destroyed an abandoned home in Manchester Borough Monday has been ruled arson.
  • Police say a witness saw three teenagers, two of whom are cooperating, running from the house.

Charges are pending after three juveniles allegedly broke in and set fire to an abandoned home in Manchester on Monday, according to a news release issued by the Northeastern Regional Police Department. 

Two of the juveniles are cooperating with the investigation, the release said. 

The initial call came in as a working structure fire at 207 Park St. at 3:35 p.m. The first crews arrived on scene to find the second story already involved and were advised not to go inside. 

Crews fight a fire at an abandoned house on Park Street in Manchester on Monday, July 4, 2016.

Defensive measures: Union Fire Co. Chief Joseph Stevens said borough and area fire departments have known for some time the house was abandoned. Plans were in the process of deciding when and how to demolish the empty residence. 

"We were well aware of this house," Stevens said. The home is not adjacent to any other structures, only a wooded area.

"Fortunately, it was green; it hasn't been dry lately," he added.

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The lack of dry tinder meant the fire had a more difficult time spreading. Given that the house was abandoned for quite some time and the fire was already well involved, Stevens said the determination was made to take only "defensive measures."

Stevens said that meant nobody was going inside to attack the fire. It was safer to keep everybody back, prevent injury and concentrate on keeping the fire contained to the residence.

"We put a lot of water on it," he said. 

Crews respond to the scene of a fire on Park Street on Monday, July 4, 2016.

Three suspects: According to the news release, investigators spoke with a witness who saw three teenagers running from the area just after the fire started. He asked if they needed any help, but they took off into the woods. 

The investigation revealed that two males and a female, ages 14 to 17, had gone in through a window and set fire to paper using a lighter, according to the release. The house, to which the doors were locked, the windows boarded up and "No Trespassing" signs were posted, caught fire. 

Two of the three juveniles have cooperated and provided statements to investigators. The release said charges of arson and related offenses will be filed in juvenile court but did not specify whether those charges would apply solely to the noncooperating suspect or all three. 

No one from the Northeastern Regional Police Department was available for comment.

— Reach John Joyce at jjoyce2@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @JohnJoyceYD.