By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — SALEM — Authorities say the quick response of emergency personnel on Wednesday night stopped a Dumpster fire outside the Peabody Essex Museum from spreading to the building.
The Fire Department responded to Charter Street side of the museum after an 11:03 p.m. report of the blaze, a firefighter said. The department was on scene by 11:04 p.m. and quickly extinguished the fire, which had not extended beyond the Dumpster.
A statement on the Fire Department’s official Twitter account said the blaze “would have extended to the museum” if firefighters hadn’t knocked it down when they did.
Police believe the fire could have been intentionally set, though they have declined to say exactly how. Security footage from the museum apparently shows a suspect.
A museum security officer told police that a man in his 50s had been seen walking toward the Dumpster at about 10:59 p.m. He was wearing a black coat and baggy jeans and was described as balding, according to the incident log.
“The male party dropped something in the Dumpster and then left the area,” police wrote in the log. The fire started soon thereafter.
Police and the Fire Department are investigating the incident.
Firefighters had cleared the scene by 11:22 p.m.