Arson Squad Investigating 6 Fires in Historic Newport, R.I.

May 16, 2007

An arson task force is investigating a string of six fires that have broken out in the seaport city of Newport, R.I. since May, three of them in just the past week.

On Sunday, fires that started within a few hours of each other damaged two century-old homes, one of them a Victorian house that had been converted into apartments. A few days earlier, a fire destroyed a downtown souvenir shop.

“We’re asking the public to be very vigilant,” police Captain Wayne Morrison said. “Any and all information could be useful, even if people think it’s trivial.”

The task force, which includes members of the city’s police and fire departments, the state Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, is looking into six fires dating to a March 5 blaze in a mixed-use building.

“We’re all apprehensive,” said Federico Santi, who owns an antiques business, The Drawing Room of Newport. “We’re wondering, ‘Am I going to go to bed and wake up with a fireman breaking down the door?”’

Newport, a city of about 25,000 residents, is known for its colonial heritage and Gilded Age mansions. It is bordered by Rhode Island Sound and Narragansett Bay.

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