Arson still a possibility in newest Heights fire

November 19, 2009 8:52:46 PM PST
It may have been another sleepless night for some neighbors in the Heights. There was another suspicious fire and this time it happened at an occupied home - not a vacant one -- and some family members were home at the time. This latest fire, which would be the 19th in the area since August, happened near Herkimer and West 16th Street. It broke out around 9pm Wednesday night. Firefighters responded very quickly and put it out, so the flames did not spread throughout the house. Two people were inside at the time, but got out with no injuries. The fire started on an outside corner of the house near the front door, according to officials.

So far investigators have released very few details about who the suspect or suspects might be and that has residents very frustrated.

"I came outside and I smelled the smoke and I just started running - I was like, oh my god, it's probably my mom's house," said neighbor Gem Rinehart.

Another fire in the Heights is fueling fear in people who live here.

"It's getting closer and closer," said Rinehart.

She lives in a small garage apartment just steps away from the latest fire.

"They need to catch somebody soon because that's too close to home next door," Rinehart said.

While arson investigators say they're working diligently on the series of fires set purposely, they won't give specifics. No suspect descriptions, motives, or details on how the fires are set.

"We're following many, many leads and we have gathered a tremendous amount of intelligence," said Chief Alison Stein, Lead Arson Investigator. "There's many reasons why we don't want to release info. Basically it helps us control the investigation."

The only information made public are the obvious - locations and the number of the fires.

"It worries me because I don't know who's walking around. I could be next to them and they could've just burned down my house," said Rinehart.

For now, the fear hangs over the Heights. Last week's relief about the arrest of one suspect has been eclipsed by another torched home.

"In a way that's more frightening, because now there's so many I worry about copycats," said Young.

There are no new suspects, despite a massive search. Police say because of all the recent arson fires in the area, they called out three K-9 units as a precaution on Wednesday night.

There have been at least 18 arson fires in the Heights in the past few months, however investigators do not yet know if this one will be added to that list.


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