To catch an arsonist - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

To catch an arsonist

July 25, 2007

Valdosta - Arsonists start fires for many reasons.  "Anger, financial problems, and some people just get a thrill out of watching stuff burn," says Lt. Edgar Tooley with the Valdosta Fire Department.

But proving a fire is arson related and convicting an arsonist are hard for fire investigators to do.  "If you don't have someone who said I've done it or someone who said I saw him do it or incriminating evidence, it's very hard to prove," says Capt. James Williams

There are many steps firefighters take before calling it an arson.  "We don't call it an arson until we can prove that. In doing that we have to collect evidence, do a series of interviews, picture taking and that kind of stuff," Williams adds.

Once the fire was determined to be arson related, investigators look for accelerants, the homeowners financial background and if valuable property was removed from the home before the fire occurred.  "If a person is going to set a house on fire, they are going to take the good stuff out," Lt. Tooley says.

All this must be done as soon as possible, because the more time passes, the harder it is to put the fire starter behind bars.  "If we can gather enough information and get a suspect in the first 24 to 48 hours, we pretty much can get a conviction," Lt. Tooley adds.

Most law enforcers offer rewards to anyone who gives information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=arson/AE

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