Fresno Fire tracking pattern of serial arsonists

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Investigators are working to stop at least two serial arsonists before the fires get bigger and more dangerous. (KFSN)

Investigators are working to stop at least two serial arsonists before the fires get bigger and more dangerous.

Most of the 140 questionable fires set since May 1 have been lit in parts of Downtown, Central, Southwest and Southeast Fresno.

There's evidence of two distinct patterns of serial arsonists. So far 12 suspects are in custody. Investigators arrested two of them Sunday.

The tricky part now is seeing if those suspects are the repeat fire starters. Only a few of the 140 recent suspicious fires in Fresno have been as large as the blaze that destroyed part of the abandoned Del Monte plant on G Street in Downtown Fresno.

The fortunate part of the long, detailed arson investigation is that most fires are small grass or trash fires. The unfortunate part is a fire department that is getting spread thin.

"When we're tied up with these small grass fires, trash can fires, whatever, it's taking away resources from paying citizens to help protect them," said Deputy Fire Marshall Don MacAlpine. He says he and his staff of four investigators are working hard.

All of the arrests made so far, MacAlpine says were made because of good investigative work and help from witnesses.

"It's witness information that, most of the time, helps bring these things home," he said.

One bold fire was started in the Fresno Police headquarters parking lot Sunday afternoon. About $2,000 in undercarriage damage was sustained to a patrol car. No one has been arrested for this incident yet.

MacAlpine says the suspect is seen in surveillance video that investigators are not ready to release yet. "We're looking for an individual who may be walking around in that area that may have appeared out of normal to anyone," he says. "If they can call and help us out that would be greatly appreciated."

The 140 fires since May are racking up millions of dollars in damages and putting firefighters and the public at risk. Each incident is time consuming, which cuts down on the department's goal response time of four minutes or less.

The fire department is working with police investigators to track down the arsonists. Anyone who knows about any of these fires is asked to call the Fresno Fire Department.
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