Harrisburg police say someone may have set an apartment fire that displaced eight people.
City officials say they plan to cite the building owner for failing to keep his tenants safe. All eight tenants made it out safely around 2:00 a.m. Thursday. But to complicate matters, four are registered sex offenders, and they're now staying in area hotels.
Fire investigators returned to the boarding house on the 900 block of North Third Street, and found no structural damage, though evidence that may point to arson.
“More matches on the ground than you would probably find in people's homes, so there's two things that cause some suspicion,” Harrisburg Bureau of Fire Chief Robert Talloni said.
The other, according to Talloni, was that the building's sprinkler system didn't work. The water valve in the basement had been turned off.
“There was fire out of the second and third floor windows, so a lot of bad things could have been happening to the people inside that room,” Talloni said.
Codes officers inspected the property late last year. They reported they did not check the sprinkler system because the landlord couldn't give them access.
“The owner's in trouble with us right now,” Harrisburg Assistant Codes Administrator Art Emerick said. “There were a number of other violations that were listed.”
According to the city, fire extinguishers hadn't been re-certified in nearly two years.
“That was also something he was supposed to address and did not,” Emerick said.
There are new addresses, at least temporarily, for the eight tenants. They probably can't come back until codes issues are fixed.
Four of the displaced are registered sex offenders. Their crimes involved kids. Per Megan's Law, they now have an obligation to tell police where they're staying, since they've moved.
“There's some type of natural disaster that's caused the occurrence, they still have 48 hours to report to the Pennsylvania State Police,” Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said.
We're told the Red Cross is putting them up at hotels in the area, where there may be children close by.
abc27 News decided not to release the sex offenders names, but the state's Megan's Law website, www.pameganslaw.state.pa.us has that information.
“Hopefully those individuals will not re-offend, but the public has a right to know where these individuals are,” Marsico said. “The victims have a right to know.”
Records show the owner of the Third Street property is Elias Harbilas, of Camp Hill. abc27 News couldn't reach him for comment.
Harrisburg police report they haven't made any arrests in connection with their arson investigation.