Authorities investigating nine "suspicious" fires in a western Massachusetts town that left two people dead are treating them as crimes.

Federal, state and local fire and police investigators are trying to determine what caused the fires, which local District Attorney Elizabeth D. Scheibel says are suspicious.

Scheibel says the fires broke out across Northampton, Mass., between 2 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. Sunday. She says five fires were in buildings and others in cars.

The two victims were found on the first floor of a house that was engulfed in fire. Police have not identified them.

"It didn't take long for the house to explode," Peter Curtis, who lives next door to the home where the two victims were found, told The Hartford Courant.

Curtis said he got up at about 2 a.m. and said the sky seemed bright for the middle of the night. He looked out the window and saw the fire on the screened front porch of the house.

Some residents said someone has been setting fires for at least a year in the area between the city's downtown and small airport.

Northampton, where Smith College is located, is known for its vibrant downtown and is part of an academic community that is home to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College and Hampshire College.

Neighborhood groups have met with police and fire officials several times to discuss the problem, which in the past were nuisance fires such as leaves being set ablaze or car fires, the Courant reported.

The fires Sunday are "more scary than ever" Curtis said.

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