The year 2011 is not halfway over, yet a recent trend in arson has Wilson authorities concerned.

The year 2011 is not halfway over, yet a recent trend in arson has Wilson authorities concerned.


The police department has five open cases of arson from this year alone with several others that remain under investigation from years past. Of the fires that have been ruled arson within the last five months, four were set at structures that were unoccupied. Another fire was started at a house that was occupied at the time.


“This is peculiar,” Wilson Police Chief Felix Hernandez said. “We have had fires, but not all of them were ruled arson. Right now, we are following up on all possible leads. We are constantly getting new leads, but not all of them pan out.”


State Fire Marshall Judah Sheppard has been involved in investigating the recent spat of arson-related fires, which is ongoing. His involvement has been invaluable to the Wilson Police Department.


“He has to pick up the slack and to a certain degree, we do to,” Hernandez said.


The first suspicious fire this year occurred in January when a fire was set on the side of someone’s house.


 A flammable liquid was found at the scene and a suspect was named. The case remains open and differs from the others in the fact that the residence was occupied at the time of the fire.


The other four arsons occurred at structures that were abandoned.


The first occurred on March 1 when a storage building was set on fire behind a residence located at 17th and Birch Streets. The residence had been unoccupied for several days.


Another fire occurred on April 28. A structure fire occurred at 759 7th St. The structure has been abandoned for years and did not have any utilities.


The third and fourth arsons happened on May 8 minutes apart. The first fire was reported at 7th and Ash Streets and was a vacant house fully engulfed by the time first responders showed up on the scene. As that fire was discovered, another fire was reported at 671 Ash St. at an unoccupied house whose owners live in Tennessee. That fire also caused damage to a neighboring residence.


“This spat is highly unusual,” Hernandez said. “For us, it’s very alarming. It could endanger the lives of neighboring residents and we are very concerned.


“If it’s kids, they are endangering themselves and others. If it is an arsonist, it becomes that much more serious and dangerous.”'


Michael Pineda