AP NEWS

Arson charges filed in apartment blaze

August 28, 2018

A Fort Wayne man was charged with arson after allegedly setting fire to a Fort Wayne duplex. 

Steven N. Hyland was charged Monday with two counts of arson following an Aug. 7 fire. According to court documents, the fires started in the southeast bedroom on the second floor of a two-story duplex. An investigation found “an open flame was intentionally applied to the bed and/or bedding material inside the room.”

The address of the home was redacted from court records. However, the Fort Wayne Fire Department was called to a fire at 7:52 p.m. Aug. 7 at 221 W. Leith St., according to a news release. Court records state the blaze Hyland has been charged in connection with started at 7:54 p.m. 

The first-floor apartment was occupied by three adults at the time of the fire, who self-evacuated before the Fort Wayne Fire Department arrived. 

“The exterior entry door of (the second floor apartment) was secured with a deadbolt lock when the fire department arrived,” court documents state. “The deadbolt lock was configured in a way that it could only be locked from the exterior using a key.”

Court documents state that the tenants of the upper-floor apartment were being evicted and it was “unclear if anyone was actively occupying the apartment,” but did contain items belonging to three people. 

“The upstairs apartment was severely damaged by the fire. Property in the upstairs apartment was significantly damaged as a result of the fire,” court documents state. “Heat and flame extended to an adjacent dwelling to the east of the property. This property was damaged as a direct result of the fire.” 

According to fire department investigators, a witness who lives nearby said a black SUV occupied by a woman with at least three children and one man was seen parked directly in front of the building 10 to 15 minutes before the fire was discovered. The witness said the man exited the SUV and entered the apartment. The man returned a few minutes later with a backpack, closed the apartment door, and left. 

Investigators say the fire started on a corner of the bed inside the apartment. 

“It is determined the cause of this fire is Steven Neal Hyland used an open flame, possibly a butane lighter, to ignite the corner of the bed inside the second story bedroom ... ,” court documents state. “A butane style lighter was located on the ground directly outside the entry door of (the apartment). All other sources of natural and accidental ignition energy were eliminated as fire causes during the course of this investigation.”

dgong@jg.net

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