The Mind Of An Arsonist

Thursday, April 12th 2007, 8:20 pm

By: News On 6

A Tulsa arsonist has set several fires over the past week, all in south Tulsa. Fire investigators don't know why the fires were started, or where the arsonist might strike again. News On 6 anchor Omar Villafranca reports while they search for their suspect investigators believe the arsonist is watching them.

Tulsa fire investigators run across dozens of suspicious fires every year. But this week’s rash of arson fires is something few department veterans have ever seen.

"What we saw yesterday was a very brazen act on the part of this arsonist," said Tulsa Fire Department Captain Larry Bowles.

The fires were all set relatively close to each other, and on Wednesday three separate fires were set only a few minutes apart.

Captain Bowles believes the arsonist is watching them.

"It's one thing to set and fire and run, but for an individual to remain on scene setting additional fires for the purpose of watching is something to think about," he said.

Investigators say arsonists start fires for various reasons ranging from retaliation to emotional problems. Bowles says it can start out small. Arsonists start as kids, innocently playing with a cigarette lighter, or with matches. From there the problem can turn into something bigger, and grow progressively worse.

“They get up in years, there's a vacant house down the street and a small fire is set, it's put out before it gets bigger, they set another fire in another vacant house, and the pattern goes on,” Bowles said.

A picture of one of the most famous Tulsa fires set by arsonists sits behind the Bowles desk. The Petroleum Club fire in 1994 caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage. Two young, underage boys were later charged with starting the fire.

"We did a follow up just to see what the status was for those individuals, and where they were, and the outcome was not good," said Bowles.

Bowles hopes investigators can stop Tulsa’s newest arsonist before someone gets hurts.

Captain Bowles says there was a program called the Juvenile Fire Setters Program. Firefighters would talk to kids, parents and teachers about the dangers of fires and arson. But due to budget cuts the Tulsa Fire Department scrapped the Juvenile Fire Setters Program.

If you know anything about this weeks fires you're asked to call Tulsa's arson hotline at 596-2776.

Related stories:

4/11/2007 Multiple Fires Damage Apartment Complex

4/12/2007 Firefighters One Step Behind An Arsonist

4/12/2007 Arsonist Strikes Again

4/12/2007 Search For Serial Arsonist Heats Up

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