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Knoxville blazes linked, fire officials say

| Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, 12:00 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Arson Squad is investigating a string of intentionally set trash fires in Knoxville, one of which spread to an apartment building, police and fire officials said.

"I'm pretty positive they're all related. They were all within two blocks of each other," Detective Michael Burns said. Emergency calls came in for six fires within five minutes of each other early Monday, he said.

The first call came in at 2:25 a.m. for a fire at a four-unit apartment building at 336 Brownsville Road, Burns said. It began with a trash fire against the woodframe building, he said.

No one was hurt, Burns said.

Firefighters extinguished the apartment building fire and a trash fire between 436 and 438 Brownsville Road, Burns said. Police extinguished four other trash fires in alleys behind Amanda and Grape streets and Brownsville Road, he said.

The fire caused an estimated $100,000 in damage to the apartment building, said Terry Cerchiaro, Pittsburgh Bureau of Fire battalion chief. Fire damaged the entire second floor, water damaged the entire first floor and smoke damaged the whole building, he said.

Pittsburgh Christian Fellowship in Mt. Oliver owns the building.

Residents of the apartment building -- three women and one man -- are all members of the church, the Rev. Chris DeMark said.

"We're just, you know, thankful to God that everyone was OK, and the police responded swiftly, and the fire department responded swiftly," he said.

The American Red Cross provided aid to two of the displaced residents, a spokeswoman said.

Authorities are investigating other suspicious fires, Pittsburgh police Sgt. Dave Meade said.

"We got some more calls this morning from people who found remnants of their garbage had been burned," he said.

There are no suspects, Burns said.

Anyone with information about the fires should call the Arson Squad at 412-782-7646, he said.

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