Rockland County arson investigators and Orangetown police detectives are working in Nyack today on two streets within two blocks of each other, where four cars were apparently set on fire overnight.
Orangetown police increased the number of cars that were set on fire from three to four today after another damaged car was discovered. Police also believe that thefts from 10 cars in the immediate area in Nyack are related to the fires.
In South Nyack, police report they also had four thefts from cars in that village.
Last night, one car, a Jeep, was completely destroyed and a house at 35 Summit St. was damaged. The residents of the 35 Summit St. home had to evacaute their home because of the fire and were being temporarily kept out of the home as utility service was cut because of the fire.
Police said they are considering the fires to be arson. Police are also seeking help from the community, asking residents to contact them if they saw something suspicious.
The fourth damaged car was discovered hours after firefighters had left Summit Street. A resident of that block found that the inside of her car was damaged from a fire.
Orangetown Det. Sgt. George Garrecht said someone lit a piece of paper on fire inside the door of that car, and then shut the car door. The fire, however, went out on its own and did not spread. There was damage to the interior of the car caused by the fire.
Nyack Fire Chief James Petriello said the incidents are all under investigation and that he called in the Sheriff Department's Bureau of Criminal Identification arson investigators to probe the fire scenes.
Nyack volunteer firefighters were alerted to a fire at 35 Summit St. at about 2:30 a.m. As firefighters responded to the call, they also found a car on fire at 23 Summit St. and discovered that a car had apparently been set on fire at 16 Washington St.
All of the cars were parked in the driveways of houses. While two of the fire have addresses on different streets - 23 Summit and 16 Washington - the fires were actually on Jackson Avenue. The driveways of both homes are located off Jackson Avenue.
At 23 Summit, a new Jeep was gutted by fire. The fire did not affect the home, but the detached garage behind the house and off Jackson Avenue suffered minor damage.
At 16 Washington St., firefighters said that Orangetown police officers on their way to the fire discovered a car in that home's driveway was on fire and they were able to extinguish the fire.
At 35 Summit St., a car parked in the driveway and immediately adjacent to the house was apparently set on fire. The fire damaged the side of the house, where siding could be seen burned away and window shades were melted.
Petriello said residents of 35 Summit St. evacuated the house safely and no one was injured. None of the Nyack and Piermont Fire Departent volunteers who were called to fires were injured, Petriello said.
Residents of 35 Summit St. were allowed back in their home to retrieve personal belongings — and their pets — after the fire was put out. However, they had to leave the home, Petriello said, because power to the house was being turned off and arson investigators were going to be working at the house.
Police said the fires appear to have been started with whatever materials could be found in the cars. Although the investigation is continuing, police said it does not appear that an excellerant was used to start the fires.
Garrecht said the incidents are a continuation of a rash of car larcenies that have affected the Nyack area recently. However, Garrecht said that setting fire to cars after getting into them is a new addition to the crime spree.
The car incidents all seem to have one key element in common: The car doors were left unlocked.
Garrecht and South Nyack-Grand View Police Chief Robert Vancura both urged residents to lock their car doors, even when the cars are in the driveway. They said thieves are looking for easy targets such as open cars and are taking any money they can find — even small coins — and personal electronics such as iPods, cell phones and GPS units left in vehicles.
In addition to seeking tips from the community about the incidents, police are also asking that any residents in the Summit Street area whose homes are equipped with video security cameras check their systems to see their exterior cameras might have recorded something that could be useful to the police investigation.
This morning's fires were the third night in a row in which Nyack volunteer firefighters were called out for early-morning emergencies. On Monday, they were called to assist at the scene of a c, where a 27-year-old resident of Jackson Avenue in Nyack man was killed. On Sunday, there were called to in downtown Nyack.
The Catherine Street fire, which sent some smoke into adjacent buildings on Main Street in Nyack, is considered accidental — possibly caused by an electrical problem.
Orangetown police ask that anyone who might have information about the fires or recent car break ins contact the Orangetown Detective Bureau at 845-359-2121.