“When you take 115,000 residents and they keep their eyes open and they watch for things that are out of place in the city you can imagine our ability to solve this crime that has magnified,” said Mayor Curtis.
The mayor announced a special task force has been created involving Provo City police and fire, State Fire Marshall, the Alcohol, Fire Arms, Tobacco and Explosives Unit or ATF and neighborhood chairs.
Firefighters dealt with 10 fires total in the city since the 13th of March. Each of the fires were started in the early morning hours, each building has been abandoned and the utilities were shut off.
“Currently those buildings that have been targeted will be removed with in a two week time,” said Curtis.
Investigators have found each fire was started with ignitable petroleum liquid. It could be anything from gasoline to charcoal fluid. At a press conference Wednesday, authorities say there may be one or more arsonist setting these fires.
“You have your traditional pyromaniac with is a very small, small set of fire starters. You have your arson for hire where there is a monetary incentive to burn a property or properties,” said State Fire Marshal Lynn Schofield. “You have your hero fire setter. Those are fire setters who set fires discover them and assist during/while evacuating people or directing traffic away from an incident.”
Each property that was set on fire has separate or multiple owners. Authorities have been investigating the owners of the properties for the possible link of insurance fraud.
Police have also looked into suspicious vehicles at the scenes of the crime but none have turned into viable leads.
“There are several persons of interest,” says Provo Police Chief John King. “General category of people that we are looking at, people we have interviewed people that tips have come in about so we are looking at several people.”
Thirty-four of Provo City Neighborhood Chairs have been asked to come up with potential fire spots.
“We want to look around to see if there is any another potential places that could be under attack next time with this individual or individuals,” said Provo Fire Chief Gary Jolley.
The ATF added another in sight to why the fires may have been started on Wednesday. The potential that firefighters may be targeted in the string of fires set by the arsonist.
“Everyone assumes that these are abandoned buildings and that no one is going to get hurt. But what people tend to forget about is the fire department that has to show up. There are a lot of firefighters putting their lives on the line trying to put these buildings out because someone decides they want to burn them,” said Agent Robert McCloy.
“Everyone that starts a fire in a building knows at some point a firefighter is going to show up.”
The city is stretching its resources by adding extra police patrols, firemen and brush trucks ready to go at a moments notice and most importantly dispatch operators to take in calls on anything suspicious.
“How we will solve this case undoubtedly is by having people come forward with observations they have made,” the police chief added. “The neighbors know their neighborhood and if there is something amidst in the neighborhood anywhere in the city we need them to call 911.”
If you have other tips on the fires or any information regarding the fires you are asked to call 801.852.7400.
This is the list of where the fires have been started.
- March 13, single family home at 262 E. 700 North.
- March 24, two duplex units at 163 W. 4800 North
- April 11, three duplex unites at 201 W. 4800 North
- April 19, one duplex at 15 W. 4800 North
- April 22, single family home at 1585 W. Center St.
- April 22, vehicle, 550 W. 600 South
- April 22, Debris, 400 W. 550 South