As Joe Boyer sat on his back porch watching Brookfield firefighters put out a fire at a neighboring house, he was not surprised that they were there.

“I expected it,” he said of a blaze at the long-vacant, single-story house in the 700 block of Syme Street that he has lived in front of for eight years. “I knew sooner or later that house was going to burn down.”

He wasn’t surprised that it went up on the Fourth of July.

“A couple of years ago, they used the Fourth of July as an excuse to burn places,” he said.

When he first saw the flames, Boyer thought maybe fireworks had set off the blaze, because there was a brush pile just outside. But, when he looked a little closer, and saw the interior going, his thoughts changed.

Arson, he said.

“There was no way inside the house,” Boyer said. “It was all boarded up.”

Brookfield firefighters were still putting out hotspots and it was way too early to talk about a cause, but Interim Fire Chief Dave Coffy said it was suspicious. He noted there were no utilities hooked up.

The call came in at 9:50 p.m. as a garage fire because of the unusual position of the house, directly behind the house Boyer rents, and behind homes on Davis Street.

Firefighter Steve Smoot said Leon Schell owns the house, and that it was not insured. The house does not have an address.

Boyer said he had called the Trumbull County Health Department about the house in 2014 after he was bitten by a rabid squirrel, one of many animals that hung around the place.

The house fire was the second structure fire Brookfield firefighters responded to on the Fourth. They were called to Ellwood Engineered Castings on Masury Road by Interstate 80 in Hubbard Township at about 6:50 a.m.

Coffy said a steel slab fell off a conveyor and the fire was so hot – one of the hottest he had ever been to – that firefighters had to battle the blaze from catwalks.