After about a two-week respite, someone is back at setting overnight fires in the city's Newberry neighborhood.
Just before 3 a.m. Thursday, a fire was set in a carport at a home at 800 Poplar St. while an elderly couple was sleeping inside.
Fortunately, the 80-year-old homeowner had to get up to use the bathroom. That action, he believes, probably saved his life and that of his invalid wife.
Williamsport Bureau of Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach puts a pin into a map of the latest arson fire in the 800 block of Poplar Street on Thursday. The map shows all the locations of fires that are suspected of being arson over the last few weeks.
"As I was going down the steps, I saw a glow. I saw there was a fire and called 911 right away. I then got my wife awake and started getting her ready to move out if we had to," said the retired pipe fitter, who did not want his name published.
City firefighters and police rushed to the scene. The first to arrive was an officer who was successful in dousing the flames with a portable fire extinguisher before the fire spread to the house.
Someone set fire to two large plastic bags and a cardboard box of recyclable aluminum cans and a decorative basket, the homeowner said.
"The whole house might have burned if I did not get up," the retiree said.
"What is happening to a nice neighborhood?" said the man, who raised his family on Poplar Street.
After six overnight fires were set in Newberry in the last week of April, the arsons seemed to suddenly stop. Another overnight fire had occurred in the 2300 block of Linn Street on April 2.
"It looks like they're starting again," said the homeowner, who has three children, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The Poplar Street home is the second Newberry property in a little more than two weeks to be set on fire while an elderly couple was sleeping inside.
During the early morning hours of April 23, someone set fire to a wicker chair on a front porch of a home in the 800 block of Prospect Avenue, just two blocks west of the scene of Thursday morning's fire.
Awakened just in time by his barking dog and neighbors pounding on his front door, the homeowner on Prospect Avenue was able to put out the fire with a garden hose before the blaze caused more serious damage.
This was just one of three arson fires that night in the neighborhood.
"It's scary and it makes you wonder. I have no idea why someone is doing this, some cheap thrill? I don't know," the Poplar Street homeowner said as he stood in his carport.
"I definitely hope they catch who is doing this before someone gets hurt. With my wife and I sleeping in there, we very easily could have burned up," added the elderly man.
City Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach said, "Everything is being done to try to catch the person or persons responsible for the fires."
The chief admitted the ordeal has been frustrating and "scary."
"It's very upsetting," he added.
Anyone with tips can call 911 or the police department.
Nine fires have been intentionally set in Newberry since early April. However, investigators do not believe a fire that was set in a Dumpster in the 2200 block of West Third Street about 4:30 p.m. last Friday is related to the overnight fires.