Weekend fires treated as arson

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 03:54 PM

The Henderson Fire Department reported two weekend arson fires Friday night on Highland Avenue and early Sunday morning on Williams Street.

The fires have been ruled intentionally set, and done so with no apparent concern about people endangered inside, according to Henderson Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson.

The call to 715 Highland Ave., Friday, came at 10:54 p.m., and crews from the city and county departments stayed on until past 3 a.m., establishing an investigation into arson and firearm shooting crimes, Wilkerson said.

“It included putting the fire out, doing the salvage overhaul work and starting a fire investigation,” Wilkerson said.

Firefighters brought any salvageable items outside after putting down the blaze and checking for hot spots, according to Wilkerson, and at the scene they determined at least three points of origin for starting the fire.

The household, determined as a total loss, had been an older two-story home, sustaining $19,000 structure damage and $10,000 in loss damage to contents in the home.

A tenant, 51-year-old Joyce Galloway, was not at home when the fire started. Wilkerson said she came with several friends or possibly other residents of the home as the firefighters worked on the scene.

Wilkerson added there were observed at the scene a number of spent shell casings from the shooting that Henderson police reports noted as fired during the incident.

“The shooting was prior to us getting there,” Wilkerson said.

Firefighters received a call at 5:56 a.m., to the scene of a second structure fire, this time at 531 Williams Street, next to the Brothers Food Mart. As soon as they noted the suspicious nature of the fire, Wilkerson determined that a call to the State Bureau of Investigation would be made.

“We determined that it was intentionally set,” Wilkerson said. “This was a very serious, dangerous fire. There were three occupants of the home, and they were very fortunate they did not lose their lives. They had no working smoke detectors there, but they were able to get out.”

Uninjured, but in need of another place to stay, were Ahmed Al Said, 66, Alsheikh Aalsharron, 67, and Yosef Saleh, 19. Wilkerson said he informed them of their eligibility to receive assistance from the American Red Cross.

Wilkerson said the arson incident at the Williams Street location was disturbingly brazen in that someone went into the occupied home to set two fires.

“Someone entered into the house and started the fire,” Wilkerson said. “It appeared to be the living room area and another area toward the back of the house that were set on fire.”

He said damage included $30,000 estimated toward the $40,568 structure and the total loss of $5,000 worth of contents.

Wilkerson said there are no clear indications the fires are the result of a single arsonist beyond the coincidence of the two being closely timed together. The investigation is focused on determining whether the two are linked, however.

“We definitely don’t want to see a trend like that again,” he said, referring to a troubling pattern of arson fires in the recent past. “We are on top of this. The fire investigation so far does not tie the two together.”

Wilkerson said while the Henderson Fire Department has qualified arson investigators, the SBI was brought in because of the two fires being closely timed together and because of the second incident involving an occupied residence.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.