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Mysterious Fires On Same Skokie Street Have Neighbors Worried

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A van is engulfed in flames Friday night -- one of two mysterious blazes on a residential street. (CBS)

A van is engulfed in flames Friday night — one of two mysterious blazes on a residential street. (CBS)

Mai Martinez Mai Martinez
Mai Martinez co-anchors CBS 2 Chicago’s weekend evening newscasts and...
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SKOKIE, Ill. (CBS) – Questions remain after an explosion and two suspicious fires rocked a Skokie neighborhood Friday night.

Police and fire investigators aren’t saying much, but neighbors are certainly talking about what they think might be a religious hate crime.

The 8500 block of Keeler in Skokie was quiet Saturday — a far cry from the scene Friday night when firefighters responded to a suspicious fire at a home on the street.

Neighbors say moments before the fire, there was an explosion.

“It was a loud blast, like the earth shook, and our house shook,” Francie Niederman told CBS 2′s Mai Martinez.

A CBS 2 producer captured images of the emergency crews and aftermath, but the drama didn’t end there. Within minutes, another fire was reported just three blocks away.

This time it was a minivan, fully engulfed in an alley. The Skokie Fire Department calls both fires suspicious, and they’re looking into the possibility they’re connected.

People living in the neighborhood feel certain they are. One witness who asked to remain anonymous believes the burned van was the same one he saw pull into the driveway of the home that was set on fire.

“There was a guy on their front steps. He had something. I don’t know what it was.  It looked like a large bucket,” the witness said.

“As they were speeding out the driveway, a large explosion went off,” he added.

The witness called 9-1-1 and was later interviewed by police.

Another witness — who also didn’t want to be identified — says police left him with the impression the Jewish family living in the home may have been targeted.

“It sounds like a religious-based arson, so we’re in complete shock here,” the witness said.

He’s not alone.

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