Dutchess Fire Ruled Arson

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Investigations are underway after three fires in the span of five days all on the northeast side of Cedar Rapids.

The Cedar Rapids Fire Department says people set all three of those fires intentionally, but they have no reason to believe all three are connected.

Assistant Fire Chief Greg Smith said like with any string of crimes, three arson cases in less than a week is a cause for concern for the fire department, those at the homes, and the rest of the community. But investigators have made strides in the first case at an apartment building on Blairs Ferry Rd. NE.

"The investigators have identified either a suspect or suspects that they are going to investigate further in connection with that fire," Asst. Chief Smith said.

What remains uncertain is whether or not these fires are related to that original apartment fire. Asst. Chief Smith said they have not discovered anything to make any sort of connections.

"Based upon the circumstances of that fire, and the suspects they're taking a look at right now, there is not any reason to believe that fire is connected to either the Hollywood Blvd. or the Duchess Cleaners fire at this time," Asst. Chief Smith said.

Fire officials say at this point there is still a lot of uncertainty behind the recent fires, and many are feeling the effects of the damage.

A day after the fire at Duchess Cleaners, ownership is still feeling the after effects.

"It affects us personally," said Chris Gray, who serves as General Manager for Duchess Cleaners. His family has owned the business for decades. "It affects, certainly, my family, but I extend that to our employees that have been with us so long as part of our family, too."

As difficult as it is for Gray and the family to manage, the family business has dealt with rebuilding before.

"My family didn't expect the flood 10 years ago which took one of our businesses, too," Gray said. "And we rallied together and with a lot of friends and family, good friends and family, we moved past it."

The first of three fires occurred August 15 at an apartment building at 2131 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE where police originally responded at 2:16 a.m.

A second fire occurred on August 17 at a home at 1639 Hollywood Blvd. NE. The fire department arrived on scene just after 3 p.m. Two firefighters were injured battling the fire.

The third fire happened early Monday morning at a Duchess Cleaners location at 3905 Center Point Road NE.

Fire officials are encouraging anyone who sees anything out of the ordinary to call 9-1-1 and report any suspicious activity, encouraging people to get to know their neighbors and make it easier to recognize something out of the ordinary.

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