Police arrest museum fire suspect; other Portland fires still under investigation

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PORTLAND — A Portland man was arrested Sunday night on arson charges after allegedly lighting a fire outside the Portland Museum of Art.

But police are still investigating a string of dumpster and trash fires set in the city on Saturday night.

Robert Johnson, 19, was arrested just after 9 p.m. Sunday and charged with Class A arson for the fire at the museum, which was quickly extinguished. Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Monday the severity of the charge was due to where the fire was set.

Sauschuck and Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria met with reporters outside City Hall Monday afternoon to discuss at least eight fires set from Friday through Sunday nights set in dumpsters and trash cans.

Johnson was arrested near the art museum, according to a police news release, while a person with him was interviewed and released.

Sauschuck said fires were set on the peninsula and in other parts of the city, including on Forest Avenue, and Commercial, Congress, Danforth and Center streets. Some were set outside apartments, others outside businesses.

LaMoria said the number of calls put a strain on the Fire Department, even though the fires were put out quickly and damage minimized.

“It was a challenge with multiple incidents all at once,” he said. “It tied up a bunch of resources.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.