Heights residents anxious over arson fires

November 17, 2009 2:10:08 PM PST
There was another house fire in The Heights which authorities say was intentionally set. This comes on the same night that residents held a meeting to get information about the arsonist who has hit 14 homes. Firefighters were called to the scene on 23rd Street and Durham around 9:30pm Monday. They do believe the home was abandoned, with some vagrants possibly around the home at times.

A Houston police officer was actually the first on the scene. Firefighters were able to respond quickly and put the fire out.

A fire chief on the scene said he could see the trail leading out of the back of the home and that the fire is very suspicious. He does believe this was intentionally set. Officials have yet to link this fire to the string of arsons in the area that investigators have been working on since early August.

Earlier Monday night, a Heights neighborhood association held a meeting where many residents gathered to hear what authorities had to say about the investigations. They say the Heights neighborhood is priority one.

One of the arson scenes is just a block away from the Hyde family.

"It is just a spooky feeling," said resident Janice Hyde.

The mother of three little girls says the entire neighborhood is on guard.

"It's more than just vandalism. It's really spiteful. One wonders what goes through their mind making this happen," said Hyde.

It's not just homeowners who are concerned. Ruben Martinez owns an automotive repair business.

"We're all concerned here in the community about what's happening. The arsonist has not been caught yet. The last thing we want to do is get that phone call that our businesses are on fire. This is our livelihood," said Martinez.

He was one of about 200 at a neighborhood association meeting where investigators assured the crowd federal and local resources are being assigned to this around the clock investigation.

"Most of these fires that have occurred, have occurred at night. That's when hard-working, honest people are asleep. So we have to have eyes and ears on the street so that's what we do," said Houston Fire Department Chief Gabe Cortez.

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia also offered the resources of his deputies if needed.

"We're here to be supportive in what we can do," said Sheriff Garcia.

While investigators say they are making progress, families like the Hydes will sleep much better once arrest is made.

"You always think arson is something far away from home. It's just a little bit too close," said Hyde.

Investigators say they put many flyers around the area asking for tips. They are actively working any leads and now they have another house to possibly add to the list.

If you can help find the arsonist, you're asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS or log on to Crime-Stoppers.org.

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