LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- The investigation into an early morning fire Saturday in Lackawanna is currently labeled as suspicious. There appears to be more than enough reason for that.
This is the second fire at the four-unit apartment building at 97 Ingham Street. A couple of weeks ago, someone set fire to a phonebook found burning on the front porch. That small fire only caused minor damage. Saturday’s fire was different.
That fire started in a common hallway and stairwell used by all four apartments. Fire investigators confirm that at least one neighbor heard what sounded like splashing noises before the fire was discovered. Was this a person or persons spilling a flammable liquid? Samples from the area have been taken to the Erie County crime lab.
While they wait for lab results, the local FBI office has joined the Lackawanna police and Erie County Sheriff Department in the investigation.
Yaser Soliman doesn’t have time to worry about any of that now.
Injured in Saturday’s fire was his brother and his entire family. Soliman says his brother Khalid needs surgery to repair a shattered foot. He injured it jumping out of a window in the family’s second floor apartment. He was cradling his 6-month-old daughter, Taseem. She suffered smoke inhalation.
The girl’s sister and brother are still at Children’s Hospital. 3-year-old Zaid must keep his eyes closed because corneas in both eyes are scratched. On his legs and arms are second-degree burns. 4-year-old Zainab is on a ventilator, recovering from a partially collapsed lung and is taking meals through a feeding tube.
Most seriously injured is the mother, Claudia Chamorro, who is in a medically induced coma at the burn unit at ECMC. She’s described as having third-degree burns on her back and face.
Soliman says he does not have time to think about the cause of the fire. He’s too busy trying to coordinate medical care for his brother’s family.
“We have to stay strong for the kids...we have to support the kids…they’re…they’re extremely traumatized. They’re our main priority right now,” says Soliman.
The apartment building is owned by the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque. The president of the mosque, Anwar Alkalar, says there have been no signs of Muslims being targeted in this neighborhood, but the fires have him thinking.
"To have this house targeted twice, I mean it was a couple of weeks ago and now for this to happen again in a suspicious manner really raises concerns,” he said.
A Go-Fund-Me site has been set-up to help the Lackawanna families who lost their home in the fire. The link is: www.gofundme.com/4-families-lose-everything-in-fire