Police, Fire Officials Work To Get To Bottom Of City Arsons

A string of recent arsons has led police and fire officials to amplify their efforts in combating what Mayor Sam Teresi referred to as a local “scourge” that threatens the “viability of every area” in the city.

According to Lieutenant Tim Glenn, fire investigations supervisor at the Jamestown Fire Department, and Harry Snellings, chief of police at the Jamestown Police Department, a joint training session between the two agencies is scheduled for April, in which policies and procedures regarding arsons will be thoroughly reviewed.

“(Our investigators) will work with their detective and forensics unit and train on collecting evidence and fire scene observation,” Glenn said. “We’re also going to send some of our investigators to the Sheriff’s Academy (for more training).”

Though noting that both agencies have collaborated for years, Glenn hopes the increased focus on countering arsons will start to curb, or better yet, prevent arsonists from ever reaching their first target and ultimately save taxpayers a bundle.

“(Suspects) can vary in age … and they usually strike during the night,” Glenn said. “They do it for thrills or even financial gain (by collecting insurance money).”

Glenn added that vacant houses are an easy target, and that a thorough study of burn patterns, evidence left behind and a lack of working utilities can easily point toward an arson-related cause.

“We’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on,” Glenn said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the percentage of arson fires in Jamestown was higher than the statewide average.”

Donald Woodfield, battalion chief of the Jamestown Fire Department, perhaps summed up the situation best when he estimated that 30 to 50 percent of reported fires were ruled an arson.

Recent arson attacks included a two-story home at 236 Falconer St., which sustained significant fire damage on Jan. 8. Another incident occurred on Dec. 8, in which a fire was found inside a vacant home on First Street near Rundquist Alley.