Investigators Searching For Washington County Arsonist

Tuesday, January 27th 2015, 10:42 pm
By: News On 6

Investigators are hunting for a Washington County arsonist.

Volunteer departments have responded to a number of grass fires in the past week-and-a-half and one fire chief said it appears they were all intentionally started by the same person.

Chief Todd Owens, with the Owens and Company Volunteer Fire Department in Vera, said they've been dealing with an arsonist for three years.

For a while it was quiet, and firefighters thought maybe that arsonist had moved on, but now it looks like that person is at it again.

From fueling up trucks to fighting fires and maintaining equipment, there's a lot 14 firefighters take care of at the Owens and Company Volunteer Fire Department.

There's even more to worry about with an arsonist on the loose.

"He'll set multiple fires on us, usually several at the same time. So he keeps us working more than one fire at the same time," Owens said.

He said an arsonist started a grass fire Sunday. The flames burned most of a pasture and came dangerously close to a propane tank.

“We've noticed more fires started in places they shouldn't have been started, so, no doubt he is back," Owens said.

The chief said the pattern the person leaves behind lets him know the arsonist knows what to do.

"He'll set the fires on a high wind, low humidity day. He's setting them just right so they will run fast and be hard fires to put out," Owens said.

Osage SkyNews 6 HD flew over a grass fire near Vera just last year, which burned down a hay shed. Owens said that is just one of a hundred more grass fires started by the arsonist.

Responding to the many calls is burning through the volunteer department's small budget.

"That's a big financial burden. It doesn't allow us to upgrade any of our equipment or any of our trucks," Owens said.

Until the arsonist is caught, Owens urges everyone in Washington County to be on the look-out.

"For vehicles moving slow in the area, for vehicles that should not be in the area," he said.

Besides dealing with an arsonist, the department and others in the county are having a hard time recruiting volunteer firefighters.

County officials ask anyone who is willing to help to give their local department a call.