EP fire adds to man’s troubles

EAST PALESTINE – A 29-year-old man believed to be homeless was arrested for trespassing Wednesday night.

Police Chief Kevin Dickey said the department received a call shortly before 9 p.m. that a man on a bicycle set something on fire near the railroad tracks around James Street and Pleasant Drive.

Sgt. Don Johnson found the man, identified as Lawrence R. Hammer IV, in a parking lot on Pleasant Drive after witnesses said he was headed west on the bicycle, Dickey said.

Hammer was reportedly living in a makeshift campsite near the railroad tracks, and Dickey said it appears he accidentally set the camp on fire and then fled on his bicycle.

“We don’t know how long he had been staying there. Police had gotten a report earlier in the day of a homeless man riding a bike around town,” he said.

Hammer’s last known address was Rochester, Pa., he added.

When confronted by police he reportedly denied setting the fire.

“He denied setting stuff on fire intentionally and blamed some neighborhood kids for doing it,” Dickey said.

Firefighters were able to put the fire out quickly and the only thing affected was an old mattress and some brush, he said.

Hammer was charged with trespassing on railroad property and taken to the county jail.