WATERLOO — One person was arrested Thursday in connection with an overnight arson spree that damaged or destroyed four vacant properties and an occupied business.
Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart and public safety leaders praised the work of crews who responded to the blazes and apprehended a suspect who police said admitted to setting the fires.
“We have one of the best fire services in the entire state of Iowa,” Hart said. “Today is a way we can ensure our public we are able to keep our streets safe.”
Police officer Enes Mrzljak was leaving an off-duty assignment when he noticed one of the fires on Logan Avenue. He drove through the area, saw a suspicious person walking on East Fourth Street and called on-duty officers.
The man, Justin Edward Silos, 37, of Waterloo, appeared intoxicated with slurred speech and unsteady balance, according to court records. Records state he admitted to drinking Olde English malt liquor and cheap wine and taking Xanax.
Police Capt. Dave Mohlis said a bottle of flammable fluid was found about 15 feet from Silos, who had a pink cigarette lighter in his front pants pocket. During a police interview, he admitted to setting the fires, records state.
Silos, 37, was arrested for five counts of second-degree arson and second-offense public intoxication.
During a Thursday morning court appearance, he said he has lived off and on in Tripoli and had been living in Waterloo for about six months.
He asked for a personal recognizance bond, stating, “I don’t have a (driver’s) license or nothing. I can’t go anywhere.”
Judge Nathan Callahan declined, setting bond at $25,000 on each count.
Fire Chief Pat Treloar said the department’s 28 fire personnel on duty Thursday were able to respond within three minutes to each fire while also answering two unrelated ambulance calls. The response time allowed firefighters to save neighboring structures from damage.
“We’re extremely pleased with our response times and the way our crews operated in a safe manner,” Treloar said. “It was a challenge, but we were able to handle those calls in an effective manner.”
Four of the properties were vacant — most have been unused for several years — and many of them had doors and windows boarded up with plywood. No injuries were been reported.
The fire calls included:
2:50 a.m., house at 219 W. Eighth St.
3:22 a.m., former Alstadt & Langlas Bakery at 1400 block of Mulberry Street, which is currently occupied.
3:40 a.m., house at 121 Irving St.
4:07 a.m., house at 526 Logan Ave.
4:41 a.m. house in the 521 Pine St.
The West Eighth Street address was fully engulfed and burned to the foundation. The Logan Avenue fire gutted the house. The Irving and Mulberry street fires appeared minor.
The Pine Street address is one of four vacant homes slated to be rehabilitated by JSA Development in the Walnut Neighborhood through a development agreement with the city, which currently owns it.
“They lit the window area on fire, just off the alley, so it was a relatively small fire here,” Treloar said.
Safety Services Director Dan Trelka said the city response was a great example of teamwork between the fire and police departments.
“It’s amazing how extensive this situation was and how quickly it was resolved,” he said. “Hats off to all the personnel that responded and dealt with this situation.”