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Suspicious Jacksonville House Fire

Updated: Wednesday, April 23 2014, 09:59 AM CDT
UPDATED April 22, 6:05 p.m.

The home-- empty. The fire-- suspicious. The scenario-- nothing new for investigators in Jacksonville.

It started with a phone call from a watchful neighbor.

"Just
a lot of firefighters and a lot of smoke and fire," Jamie Lacy, whose
father lives in the neighborhood, said. "My dad called and said,
'Neighbor's house is on fire.' And this is the fourth one over on this
end of town so I hurried up and rushed over as fast as I could."

But the job of firefighters had really just begun.

"Two rooms and part of the roof was fully involved," Jacksonville Fire Chief Rick Kluge said.

Firefighters say there was no easy way in.

"Found that the doors were kind of barricaded. There was stuff behind them like tires and things like that," Kluge said.

Firefighters say it took two hours to put out that initial blaze before it rekindled and forced crews back into action.

"It looks like it was started [near] one of the windows in the room and probably just in the debris that was there," Kluge said.

Police
say the man who lives at 1028 Sheridan Street has been behind bars
since February. And while investigators initially thought electricity
was running through the home, they later realized that wasn't the case.
That changed their thinking as to the cause.

"It is going to be labeled as an arson," Jacksonville Police Chief Tony Grootens said.

Both firefighters and people who live in the area say an arson is not a first.

"Back
in 2007, we had an arsonist that was in town that had set fires, and it
wasn't just in that area, it was all over town," Kluge said.

But
firefighters say the majority of Jacksonville's abandoned homes are in
this northeast end of town, which is why investigators say it's a hotbed
for that type of criminal activity.

"We have had several of these similar-type fires in the past couple years so it is concerning to us," Grootens said.

Officials
say abandoned "problem properties" can be demolished by the city, but
it's a process and it's expensive. Regardless, police say fire is never
the way to clean up the neighborhood.

"It's different if it's
unoccupied rather than occupied, but arson, the classification, of
course would be a Class X Felony and it's serious consequences. I think
the sentencing range is from six to 30 years," Grootens said.

No one was hurt in this fire.

Investigators are trying to figure out if any sort of accelerant was used.

They
are also hoping someone in the neighborhood can provide the break they
need in the case. They are going door to door and asking people what
they saw or heard. They are also looking to see if any neighbors have
security or hunting cameras that may have captured the scene at the time
of the fire.Suspicious Jacksonville House Fire


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