Arson Fires Set In Garbage Cans Spread To Garages, Power Poles In Hegewisch

Dramatic flames raged overnight in the Hegewisch community, and police said three different fires in the area have now been ruled arson. CBS 2's Marissa Parra reports.

Video Transcript

JIM WILLIAMS: Dramatic flames overnight in Chicago's Hegewisch neighborhood. Police say three different fires in the area have been ruled arson. And neighbors say it feels like history is repeating itself. CBS 2's Marissa Parra joins us live at Hegewisch to tell us what investigators know so far. Marissa?

MARISSA PARRA: Jim, take a look at this. This is someone's backyard. As people are starting their Easter Sunday dinner, some of them still don't have internet. This is because electric poles like this one were lit on fire and scorched some of the cables and electric wires that were running through it.

Now, one thing that we understand is that just before midnight, before this all started, neighbors reported hearing loud bangs that either sounded like fireworks or gunshots before the alleys caught on fire.

TOM CUNNINGHAM: These are our brave first responders, right here.

MARISSA PARRA: On the eve of Easter Day, instead of pastels, Hegewisch residents we're seeing the bright amber light of flames.

MARYSUE SIMONS: I felt how hot it was. And there was smoke everywhere. And I couldn't breathe. And I was coughing and choking.

MARISSA PARRA: MarySue Simons paused her Easter prep with family to show us what's left.

MARYSUE SIMONS: I mean, there was a whole fence here lined with garbage cans. They're all gone. And the fence. And of course, this garage.

MARISSA PARRA: In the alley between Buffalo and Burley, as flaming garbage cans melted like candles, neighbors tried to save what they could.

SHERRY ZABEL: My husband, he came running out. He grabbed the burning garbage can, which we have like normally four, to try not to let this get set on fire. But by that time, it was too late and he burned his hand.

MARISSA PARRA: Do you think it could have been worse if he hadn't done that?

SHERRY ZABEL: Yeah.

MARISSA PARRA: At the same time, in the alley between Brandon and Baltimore, just 2 1/2 blocks away, the same scene. Garbage cans and garages engulfed in flames, even catching electric poles on fire.

- That's where the electricity went out and the internet went out.

- This is the second time they've done this [BLEEP].

MARISSA PARRA: For residents, it's like deja vu. This is a story on a mysterious serial arsonist we did in the exact same area of Hegewisch in 2018. In three years, no one was charged and people here worried it would happen again.

SHERRY ZABEL: This is not a joke. You're messing with people's lives, with their property, with their money.

MARISSA PARRA: Police have again ruled these alley fires as arson. And as Hegewisch residents pick up the pieces from fires that took cars, memories, and robbed all of them of peace, they're focusing on the silver lining and hoping this time, it's the last time.

SHERRY ZABEL: I'm just scared. People could have died. I'm just glad that everybody's OK and you know, nobody got hurt.

MARISSA PARRA: Now, here's something interesting. One of the neighbors here is a Freemason, these documents dating back to around the time of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. This one's from 1873. These papers were able to survive the fire last night.

Now, as for the investigation, police say they do believe that it was intentional. But there are no leads yet as to how the fires ignited or who did it. Reporting live from Hegewisch, Marissa Parra, CBS 2 News.

JIM WILLIAMS: Marissa, thank you.