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Norwich’s arson task force back in action after two downtown fires

New London

NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — “Once upon a time in Norwich… ” reads a plaque on the corner of the massive mill building which once housed the Hopkins and Allen Gun Factory. It was once Norwich’s largest employer.

Now an arson reward sign is stapled to the boarded up front door of the abandoned building. On Sunday firefighters fighting a second floor fire discovered several other fires had been set inside in the past.

“It’s definitely a concern,” says Amilcar DeAndrade who owns Diamond Auto Sales & Service right across from the Franklin Street mill. “You have to worry about the fire if it spreads and coming across to the cars or even to anybody… getting hurt,”

DeAndrade’s business is also just down the street from the former YMCA on Main Street which was set on fire the very next day.

“You can see it’s boarded up,” says DeAndrade. “I don’t know if they’re sneaking in from the backside.”

Because of these back to back suspicious fires the city’s arson task force started meeting again this week. 30 abandoned buildings have been identified. Ten of which are owned by the city.

“We’re going to try to have them secured the best we can but it’s a daily type of situation,” says city manager John Salomone.

The task force will also contact other owners to try to get them to secure their buildings.

“You can track them down usually by records but you’re right taking action is another story,” says Salomone.

Double duty for detectives hoping to catch potential arsonists and at least block them from breaking in to another building.

“The police know which buildings are vacant and they’re very good at taking a run around and seeing if anything is out of place or not,” says Salomone.

The public is also asked to keep an eye out for anyone breaking into abandoned buildings.

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