After fighting more than 100 arson fires last year alone, Pine Bluff’s fire department hopes ideas from a new committee may help stop the blazes.
“If you burn your neighborhood down, where are you going to live?” asked Sandra Richards, a lieutenant with the Memphis Fire Department, as she and others visited the Beverly Apartments on Saturday. The residential complex was gutted by a Jan. 16 fire that was apparently the work of an arsonist.
“When we got here, we had to concentrate on evacuation first, before we could start to attack the fire,” Chief Don Horton told the group, which also included fire department officials from North Little Rock, Dallas and Hopewell, Va., as well as agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
FBI agent Pat Elko said that agency was prepared to “offer any assistance we can, including surveillance equipment and technical assistance.”
Elko noted that other cities in South Arkansas, including McGehee and Eudora, had both experienced problems with arson fires.
“I think they’ve had 40 in Eudora in 18 months,” Elko said.
Richards said one way to deal with the problem is to take a community approach.
“You need to contact the neighborhood associations, neighborhood leaders and make them a part of the solution,” she said. “The people in those neighborhoods know their neighbors and they know their patterns, and if you get them on your side, maybe they will pass along what they know to you.”
Currently, a reward of up to $1,000 is being offered by the fire department and another $1,000 from the police department for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for arson fires in Pine Bluff.
“The number of calls on our arson hot line has increased but as you know, arson is one of the most difficult crimes there is to solve,” Horton said. “But we’re going to keep on dotting the Is and crossing the Ts until we find out who is doing it, and stop these incidents from occurring in Pine Bluff.”
Information from: Pine Bluff Commercial, www.pbcommercial.com
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