MARION COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) – Wayne Township fire investigators are asking for the public’s help regarding two suspicious fires that happened two blocks apart from each other.
The Indiana Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators is now offering up to a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Officials said the fires started about the same time – one early Friday morning on Roena Street and one early Saturday morning on South Fleming.
They’re not sure yet if they’re connected, but they’re hoping the public will let them know if they saw anything and will continue to keep an eye out in their neighborhoods.
“Life safety is a huge issue here, not only for the firefighters but also for the civilians that live around there,” said Captain Michael Pruitt with Wayne Township Fire. “There are other homes in close proximity and that could spread quickly.”
Mary Gentry lives next door to one of the homes. She says it’s been vacant for years.
“I had always been worried about somebody burning it down,” Gentry explained. “We have two sheds close to it, with all our mowers, yard equipment inside. I didn’t want to see them burn.”
Firefighters were able to keep the fire off those sheds.
The pastor of the church next door, Pentecostal Bread of Life Church, says they had just acquired the property. They were going to tear the house down to add to their parking lot because they’re planning an expansion.
“I’m trying to figure out what it was. We’ve had all the power, gas, water, sewer, all disconnected,” said Reverend Boyd Warren.
He said the blaze won’t delay their plans.
“We actually had a meeting Wednesday night at the church, concerning the neighborhood, the vandalism, and all this. Drugs, prostitution – hoping to get these things taken care of with the help of the Lord,” he added.
Two blocks away sits the vacant home on Roena Street that burned Friday morning.
“It could have spread you know, and damaged a lot of homes because we’re all pretty close together,” said Lois Hargis, another neighbor.
Wayne Township Fire Department investigated 15 arson fires in 2013. So far this year, they’ve had 21.
Firefighters and neighbors are hoping that’s all they’ll see.
“The firefighters really did a great job keeping the fire from spreading and we are grateful for that,” said Gentry.
Investigators are hoping anyone who saw something, or anything out of the ordinary those nights, will contact the Wayne Township Fire Department at (317) 247-8501 or the Indiana Arson Hotline at 1-800-382-4628.