October 20, 2010 Edition

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Suspicious fires raise questions

A firefighter helps battle a blaze last Wednesday morning on Ringle Street in Hoxie. The house, which was abandoned, was a total loss. The fire is under investigation.
Submitted Photo ~ Robert Warden
Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

Farmers burning off their fields are not the only reason for all the smoke in the air around Walnut Ridge and Hoxie. Structure fires are adding to the haze, and some of the fires may not be accidental.

Since October 1, the Hoxie Fire Department has fought four structure fires, all in the Southeast side of town. Most of the homes and buildings were vacant and without power or gas running to any of them.

Hoxie Police Chief Glen Smith and Hoxie Fire Marshall Cassie Sapp are investigating the fires and say so many fires in such a short amount of time is very suspicious.

"After the first fire, when we were paged to the second one, which was another vacant house, arson was exactly what went through my mind," Sapp said.

Three of the fires from last week are being investigated. According to Sapp, at one of the structure fires, firemen found a Coleman propane bottle, a tire and a cardboard box that was soaked in some kind of accelerant.

"As soon as we arrive on the scene, we do a scene size-up and look around to see if there is anyone around who might be suspicious," Sapp added. "We also check to see if any of the elements we find are similar to other fires we have had."

The fires put the lives of the firemen as well as homes and citizens in close proximity in danger. One of the fires melted the siding off a house next door to it, and could have spread to other homes and properties.

"If anyone sees anything out of the ordinary in their neighborhood, especially late at night, they need to call the police department," Sapp advised. "We hope we've seen the last of suspicious fires, but citizens can help us by being alert to what goes on around them and by reporting suspicious behavior immediately."

An early morning structure fire in Walnut Ridge at 3:48 a.m. on Tuesday raised questions by citizens in the area. The house fire followed a small fire on County Road 612 at 3:18 a.m. and a trash fire on Northeast Front at 3:24 a.m. The house was vacant and the owners were in the process of selling it.

Lt. Zach Smith of the Walnut Ridge Fire Department said the cause of the fire did not appear to be suspicious in nature.

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