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November 10. 2013 11:27PM

Laconia police investigate suspicious vehicle fire

LACONIA - Laconia and Gilford police were busy tracking a suspected arsonist following a report of a suspicious vehicle fire late Sunday night.

Police were using a K9 officer to track the trail of at least one suspect, leading away from the fire in the area of Court and Fair streets. The trail headed through downtown Laconia.

At 11:15 p.m., police could not say whether the vehicle fire was linked to a string of suspicious fires in Laconia in recent weeks. Police and fire officials have been kept busy investigating a dozen suspicious fires, one that caused close to $2 million in damage, over a six-week period beginning Sept. 22, with the most recent occurring in the early morning hours on Oct. 30.

The first fire happened about 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the Skate Escape, 161 Court St., a 60,000-square-foot building that housed several other businesses including Northeast Electrical Solutions, Little Caesar's Pizza, ABC Fabrication and the linen laundry facility for Lakes Region General Hospital.

About 4-1/2 hours later that same morning and about 1,000 feet away, another building caught fire on Bay Street that firefighters quickly extinguished.

On Sept. 28 at 2:16 a.m., a fire was reported at Pitman Freight Room, 94 New Salem St., not far from the Laconia police station.

Simultaneously, three other fires were reported in a Dumpster, a shed and fence in an alley within 500 feet of a jazz club.

That same night at 8:48 p.m., the vacant Christmas Island Resort Motel was heavily damaged in another multi-alarm blaze that caused an estimated $600,000 in damage. At 3 a.m. on Oct. 30, fire struck the Pitman Freight Room for the second time.

In all, there have been 12 separate fires — four of them multi-alarm blazes. All but one of them — the Christmas Island Motel fire — took place between 2 and 3 a.m. in the downtown area of the city.

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