YOUNGSTOWN - City firefighters had a busy morning at a bad time.
The department battled three possible arsons at vacant homes in the Brownlee Woods area of the South Side that all broke out about 7 a.m.
What made the time bad was the fact that the department changes crews at all its stations at 8 a.m. Some of the crews that responded had a mishmash of personnel because some firefighters were coming on duty early, fire Chief John O'Neill said.
''In some cases, we had to go with whoever was on the truck,'' O'Neill said.
Two of the fires were on Lennox Avenue and the third on Sheridan Road, about two blocks away.
Early May 31, fire crews battled nine blazes at vacant homes in another section of the South Side around the Glenwood Avenue area. A man was taken into custody as a suspect in those fires but was later released.
Over the past few years, the department also has battled other outbreaks of multiple, simultaneous fires, and O'Neill said that experience paid off well Wednesday.
The problem with multiple fires is that some crews who are needed at a working fire have to break away to respond to a new call, which can hamper efforts, O'Neill said.
''Ideally, we need a good 17 to 18 guys to fight a structure fire,'' O'Neill said.
O'Neill said he was considering calling in help from Boardman when the calls stopped coming in.
Chase Marcum, who lives on Lennox Avenue a few houses away from one of the burned homes, said the neighborhood was quiet for a few years, but this year there was an outbreak of burglaries in broad daylight and there have been more juveniles in the neighborhood recently.
The home close to his that caught fire was more than 80 years old and had been vacant after a woman there died and the family gave it to a bank, Marcum said.
O'Neill said all three fires are suspicious. He said it is rare for arsons to break out at that time because normally they happen late in the evening or early in the morning before sunrise. The outbreak May 31 happened between 1:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
''That is a very strange time,'' O'Neill said.