A fire that heavily damaged a caboose early Wednesday is being investigated as possible arson, an investigator with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical said.
Two trash fires discovered about the same time in the area may also have been set, Fire Marshal Rich Barr said.
About 5:30 a.m., firefighters were sent to Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway tracks near Eighth and Pennsylvania streets. The caboose, connected to a train, was in flames, Barr said.
The other fires involving debris and trash in a barrel were each within 100 yards of the caboose, Barr said.
The fact the fires were in the same vicinity leads investigators to suspect arson, he said.
Lawrence Police also are investigating a burglary at a BNSF building nearby at 701 E. Eighth St.
Someone entered the Quonset hut-type structure and took two walkie-talkies valued at $700 each and other equipment, police reported.
Barr said he thought the burglary and fires were perhaps related, but police said they had no evidence to prove a connection.
"There's no way to tell," police Sgt. Mike Pattrick said.
Fire investigators talked with residents and business people in the area to determine if anyone saw anything suspicious or connected with the fire.
"We don't have any eyewitnesses," Barr said.
In the past few years, cabooses have been phased out by railroad companies but some still are used, said Steve Forsberg, spokesman for BNSF in Kansas City, Kan.
"They're very rare, but it's not completely out of the question that one would be used," Forsberg said.
Cabooses became unnecessary because of electronic equipment that can now be placed at the end of a train, Forsberg said.