EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSCITY ON FIRE
from Eyewitness News Online
Huntington's Arsons Have Become An Epidemic
Reported by: Dave Benton
Web Producer: Dave Benton
Reported: Apr. 26, 2012 5:33 PM EDT
Updated: Apr. 27, 2012 12:29 PM EDT
Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia
Forty-four and counting. that's the number of suspicious fires putting dozens of Huntington residents on edge.
Huntington has been a city on fire, almost every part of town has seen an abandoned home go up in flames. Huntington fire fighter Shane Masters says, "Having two suspicious fires a day is not uncommon. It's very stressful."
Christi Clark lives beside an abandoned home in Huntington and fears it will be a target and catch her house on fire. "I've seen homeless people come in and out of this house and I just hope they don't catch it on fire."
The number of suspicious fires continues to grow. Between the months of November and March, Huntington fire fighters were called to several homes in the West End. Most of those fires were suspicious. the East End of town was also targeted with numerous intentional fires. While fire fighters saw the bulk of arsons in these two areas, more suspicious fires popped up in other parts of town.
Prosecutor Chris Chiles says this means there is no rhyme or reason, trend or patter to these dangerous crimes. "Sometimes they're homeless people setting these, or someone mad at somebody or they just want to play the hero and save a life."
It's bad enough fire fighters have to deal with one, two or even three fires in a day, the fire department is strapped for cash and that fuels the fire for other problems.
Shane Masters says, "We're short-handed and need to be staffed. We are down 7 men and it needs to be addressed."
Masters says fewer men on a fire has caused more injuries. Budget problems have not only li8mited the manpower in the fire department, the internal investigative unit was cut. Masters says that alone makes it difficult to find the arsonists. "When we turn these arsons over to the State, they're left unprotected. We need to find the money in the budget. Get us staffed! It's the only way to stop the arsons."
The Fire Chief and Mayor Wolfe have met to discuss beefing up the fire department and they are trying to find money in the budget to hire more firemen.
There have been some arrests in the arsons, but investigators believe there are plenty more suspects out there. The Prosecutor is asking for the public's help. Be vigilant, keep an eye out in your neighborhood and report any suspicious activity to the Arson Hotline. 1-800-233-FIRE. Your call will remain anonymous.
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