Police look to Stevens Point community to find arsonist - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Police look to Stevens Point community to find arsonist

by Colby Robertson

STEVENS POINT (WAOW) -- Since May 2008, there have been more than 20 fires in the city of Stevens Point and one in the Village of Plover.

Investigators say all were intentionally set. The latest fire Tuesday night was the first arson of 2010, but police believe it's connected to all the others.

An arsonist wanders the streets of Stevens Point at night intentionally setting more than 20 fires since May of 2008.

One resident remembers flames shooting out of his neighbors garage nearly a year ago. Mike Farmer says, "That was 3:00 in the morning and I woke up to a glow and coming through the bedroom window. When I went to the window the flames were tree top level."

After nearly two years of suspicious fires, Stevens Point Police have no motive and no suspects. Chief Kevin Ruder says, "We're taking this very seriously."

In a joint press conference officials throughout Portage County turn to the community for help.

Stevens Point Police Chief Jeff Morris says, "If this jogs someone's mind for something that happened back in May 2008. Contact us. cases are solved with information."

The only common trend is that they've all happened at night. The suspect burns everything from apartments and cars to garages and homes like this one, completely destroyed last year and just now the family starts to rebuild.

Administrative Director Jeff Morris says, "There has been significant amounts of damage. Thankfully no injuries at this time to report but there has been significant damage. One dwelling was damaged to the extent it had to be torn down the rest of the way."

Not all of the damage was significant, some of the smaller fires were started inside garbage bins outside of people's homes.

Morris says, "People may have put the fire out themselves. They may not have realized what they had. If you realize you had a fire that occurred on your property and you didn't report it to anybody, maybe you just thought it was a trash fire or something like that let us know because that will go toward establishing patterns."

Since all of these arsons have happened at night they ask that everyone is aware of their surroundings in the evening hours. If you see anything suspicious please let the police know.

In November 2009, there were five garage fires in Wausau, but investigators say they're not related. The office of the State Fire Marshall has been involved in both investigations and there is no credible evidence linking the two.

In light of these arsons the fire chief has a number of tips that you can follow to keep you and your family safe. He asks that you keep combustible objects away from your house. Keep your garages clean and make sure flammables are in appropriate containers. Make sure you lock all doors and windows to your home, garage and even cars. He says these are important fire safety tips to follow all year long.

Fire Chief John Zinda says, "You should have an escape route with the others in your home, a meeting place, two ways out and that's extremely important and the other thing that I want to reiterate which is so important because so many fires happen at night is that you have working smoke detectors. That's the one thing that can get you out alive."

With daylight savings this Sunday Zinda says it's the perfect time to check your smoke detectors when you change your clocks.

If you have any information on any of these arsons, please call the numbers below:

  • Stevens Point Police: 346-1501
  • Portage County Crime Stoppers: 1-888-346-6600
  • Wisconsin Arson Tip Line: Police: 346-1501 1-800-362-3005

Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward. The arson hotline offers a $5,000 reward.

Online Reporter: Colby Robertson


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