Separate fires at a West Virginia school and a mobile home this week rekindled unpleasant memories of a string of arsons two years ago in which five volunteer firefighters were accused of destroying 11 buildings in eastern Kanawha County.
The Sharon Dawes Elementary School in Miami burned June 24 and a mobile home in nearby Dawes was set ablaze on June 26. No one was injured in either fire, but several residents say they are concerned that a copycat arsonist may be at work.
Kanawha County Sheriff’s Lt. Bryan Stover said that the close timeframe and proximity of the two fires lend support to the theory that an arsonist may be again targeting the community, but he cautioned that it’s too early in the investigation to be sure.
State Fire Marshal Sterling Lewis, whose office is helping with the investigation, agreed.
Lifelong Cabin Creek resident Gene Dunn, 67, said that whenever fires start, every member of the community becomes a suspect.
“Many of these people in this area got nothing better to do than burn someone out of their home,” said Dunn, a retiree who says he’s concerned that his home could be next.
Jackie Kauff, another lifelong resident of Cabin Creek, said the fires have stirred discussions about crime in the community.
“I hope it’s not the same thing again,” Kauff, 65, said in reference to the 2005 arsons.
Four of the former volunteer firefighters eventually pleaded guilty to criminal charges. The fifth defendant was charged as a juvenile and his court proceedings are sealed.
Stover said last week that no suspects have yet been identified in the latest fires, but the sheriff’s department is acutely aware of the situation and is responding accordingly. He noted that two deputies patrolling the Cabin Creek area on June 26 were the first to report the mobile home fire.
“It’s obviously a concern and we’re going to spend some additional hours, additional investigator hours, to help out the fire marshal’s office,” he said.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail,
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