Portland police have charged one man with arson in connection with a fire near the Portland Museum of Art at 99 Spring St. Sunday night, one of a string of dumpster fires in the city over the weekend.

Police were investigating at least nine fires they believe were deliberately set, most of them in dumpsters, beginning Saturday night.

Police arrested Robert Johnson, 19, who lists his address as 203 Oxford St., the city’s emergency shelter. He was arrested at the corner of Congress and Center streets, moments after a pile of trash pushed up against the rear of the nearby museum was set on fire, Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said at a news conference at City Hall Monday.

Sauschuck would not say specifically that Johnson is also suspected in the other fires, but it’s clear police are investigating that possibility. Police did not release Johnson’s photograph in case police need to show potential witness a photo lineup, he said.

Johnson is charged with the highest form of arson because of the potential damage to property and people, Sauschuck said. The museum fire was reported at 9:02 p.m. Sunday.

Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said the fires pose a danger to people and property but also tie up firefighters who might be needed elsewhere.


“On Saturday night, we experienced a string of fires which did tie up resources,” he said, referring to the fires that happened on the peninsula. “That leaves a large area (of the city) unprotected.”

Johnson, who is being held on $10,000 bail at Cumberland County Jail, declined a request for an interview by the Portland Press Herald. Nobody was injured in any of the fires.

The first fire was reported at 11:03 p.m. Saturday in a trash bin at 92 Forest Ave. The second fire was reported at 11:13 p.m. Saturday in a dumpster at 39 Forest Ave.

Police and fire departments investigated another six fires set in dumpsters or trash bins on Danforth, Commercial, Congress and Center streets between 12:21 a.m. and 2:11 a.m. Sunday.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman

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