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Officials Canvass Neighborhood for Help on Fires

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Fire officials say they're investigating five suspicious fires within about a week's time in a residential area east of downtown Hammond, and they're asking for the public's help. Hammond Chief Fire Inspector Michael Opinker says he and members of the fire department were out this morning (Friday) reaching out to the neighborhood and handing out fliers.   Opinker says anyone who's seen anything suspicious can call the Hammond Fire Department, at 219-853-6419, and remain anonymous. Opinker says the fires all happened after midnight, within walking distance from each other, on State Street, Sibley and Erie, and three of them are believed to be connected -- those three, Opinker says, happened between 2:30 and 3:30 am. Opinker also says they usually have quite a few bystanders at fire scenes, but in these cases, there was hardly anyone around. Opinker says three occurred at abandoned houses, one was at an occupied residence but no one was home at the time, and another occurred with someone home and they got out safely.  Officials say there were no injuries. Opinker says two of the structures are expected to be torn down because of the fire damage.
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