Authorities investigating a series of fires early Thursday morning in Lewiston that displaced 20 people are examining security video taken from nearby stores, as well as video from cameras that were installed on light poles after a similar series of arson fires last spring.
A number of pole cameras were installed last year in areas near where three fires were set in 2013. Officials have said that Thursday’s fires were also deliberately set.
Those cameras have remained in place and the video from them is being analyzed along with security video from a number of businesses and even private residences, said Lewiston police Sgt. Brian O’Malley. He declined to say how many of the pole cameras were installed.
Reviewing the security videos is time-consuming, O’Malley said. Officers have to view more than just the 3½-hour period during which the fires were set early Thursday, but other times as well to see if anyone suspicious was out in the city that night and early morning.
Investigators have not yet had any major breakthroughs, O’Malley said. Police and fire investigators interviewed dozens of people and local residents, as well as people outside the state who have called in tips. Nothing definite has materialized, he said.
Fires broke out at 1 a.m. at 135 Oxford St., at 3 a.m. at 44 Nichols St. and at 4:30 a.m. at 21-23 Howe St. and 48 Howe St. Someone also tried to set a fifth fire at River Street, near Oxford, but it did not catch.
The fires at 48 Howe and on Oxford Street were put out quickly. The Nichols Street fire destroyed a condemned building. The fire at two apartment buildings at 21 and 23 Howe St. that were adjacent to each other did the most damage, displacing seven families. While a temporary shelter was set up at Bates College for the residents, the American Red Cross has since found them permanent shelter. Some planned to stay with family members.
The fires on Thursday were reminiscent of a series of three fires that were set over eight days last year that put Lewiston residents on edge. Four people were arrested in those fires, which destroyed nine apartment buildings and displaced more than 200 of the city’s poorest residents, many of them refugees from war-torn countries.
Police charged four people – two adults and two juveniles – with setting the fires last year.
The case against one of the adults, Bryan Wood, was dismissed after he was found incompetent to stand trial because of his limited intellect.
The case against Brody Covey, one of the juveniles, was dismissed because police failed to read him his constitutional rights before questioning him.
The cases against the other juvenile and Brian Morin, the other adult, are still pending.
No new fires broke out in Lewiston Thursday night. Police assigned additional officers to the downtown to discourage any further attempts.
The suspects in last year’s fires were also checked out in connection with Thursday’s fires, O’Malley said.
“We’ve investigated those people and we do not consider them to be involved,” he said.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: