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Arsonist has set 8 fires this year in Springfield.

Byline: Tim Christie The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - A firebug is on the prowl, arson investigators say.

Two structure fires were lit early Wednesday about five blocks apart in the Washburne Historic District north of downtown Springfield, fire officials said. They follow six earlier arsons since Feb. 9. All but two of the fires have been in the same part of town.

All of the blazes have been set in unoccupied buildings, and no one has been hurt, but fire investigators are worried that that stretch of luck will run out.

"The concern is the behavior will elevate or become more regular with time, and it's a matter of time before someone gets hurt," said Mark Walker, battalion chief with Springfield Fire and Life Safety.

Walker would not disclose how the fires were set or any other common threads.

Last month, Deputy Fire Marshal Brian Parmalee said the arsonist had been active between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. He said the culprit may live in the neighborhood, and has used material from trash cans to start some fires.

The first fire Wednesday occurred at 1:08 a.m. in a vacant house at 546 Seventh St. A passer-by and neighbors reported the fire. By the time firefighters arrived, about one-third of the house was ablaze.

About 15 firefighters spent 40 minutes battling the blaze, which caused about $100,000 damage. The house had a pending sale and was set to close today. Walker said there's no indication that the arson was related to the pending sale.

Next-door neighbor Leslie Bell called 911 while her husband went out and sprayed water on the fire.

"It's disappointing that there's someone who has a need to do that," she said.

As crews were cleaning up from the first fire, they were called out at 3:32 a.m. to garage fire at 952 C St., about five blocks away. That fire took about 10 minutes to control and caused about $40,000 damage to the unattached structure.

A third fire occurred at 10 a.m. Wednesday at 1452 C St., but an electrical short, not arson, is the suspected cause, Walker said. One resident was home at the time and was alerted by a smoke detector.

Walker asked that anyone with information call the fire department. He also encouraged residents to be observant and report any suspicious activity to the Springfield police.

Walker suggested that residents keep their property cleaned up and devoid of combustible materials to make it less inviting to an arsonist.

TO REPORT ARSON

Anyone with information about the following Springfield fires may call the arson hot line, 988-FIRE (988-3473) or the fire marshal, 726-2296:

Feb. 9: 733 Kelly Blvd., structure fire

Feb. 13: 857 Kelly Blvd., trailer fire

Feb. 21: 314 F St., trailer fire

Feb. 17 and 24: 625 21st St., structure fire

March 5: 420 F St., garage fire

March 20: 1300 Sixth St., structure fire

April 7: 546 Seventh St. and 952 C St., structure fires

CAPTION(S):

Fire did extensive damage to this house at 952 C St. in Springfield on Wednesday morning. It was the second arson of the morning.
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Title Annotation:Crime; The blazes since Feb. 9 in unoccupied buildings include two on Wednesday morning in the Washburne Historic District
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 8, 2004
Words:526
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