Firefighters douse blaze in dormant gardens in downtown Amherst

Staff Writer
Friday, January 05, 2018

AMHERST — A small fire that burned leaves and brush between the Jones Library and the Amherst History Museum Friday morning is under investigation.

Amherst firefighters and police officers responded to the outdoor blaze on Amity Street at 9:29 a.m., quickly dousing the fire before it caused any damage to the dormant gardens at both sites, Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said.

No suspects were identified at the scene, but the fire was likely started either by teenagers hanging out or homeless individuals trying to stay warm, Nelson said.

He said youth have been using body spray, including that sold under the name brand Axe, as a mechanism to start fires and get them to quickly ignite.

The gardens have been popular places for people to loiter because, even though in downtown, they are largely concealed from view by passers-by.

“It’s out of the way and way out in the back,” Nelson said.

Police have found bottles of alcohol discarded in the gardens in the past and recently found a homeless man atop a grate outside the library where warm air was coming out.

Nelson said that firefighters and police officers will do more frequent checks of the gardens to make sure no further problems occur.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.