The fire in the 800 block of East Fifth Street occurred near midnight on Sunday. According to Roswell Fire Chief Chad Hamill, the family barely escaped with their lives, saved by a neighbor’s dog who alerted their neighbors to the fire. The fire spread quickly from the car and garage into the house destroying most of the inside of the home. (Jessica Palmer Photo)
The Roswell Police Department has had four cases of reported arson from Nov. 2 though Friday, Nov 15. The most recent occurred around midnight in the 800 block of East Fifth Street Sunday. Roswell Fire Chief Chad Hamill said: “The last fire almost left a family dead when the car that was deliberately ignited was parked in an open garage.”
According to Hamill, the family barely escaped with their lives. A neighbor’s dog began to bark around midnight. He said when the neighbors got up to see what was going on, that’s when they noticed the fire which had already spread to the home. The neighbor ran next door and alerted the residents of the fire.
On Friday, another fire occurred in the 700 block of West Albuquerque Street/600 block of South Washington Avenue where a motor vehicle was set on fire.
On Nov. 9, also around midnight, the Roswell Fire Department was called to the 900 block of West Wildy Street where two motor vehicles, a portion of a fence and a carport caught on fire, and again on Nov. 10, the RFD was summoned to the 700 block of East Fifth Street for structure fire which is believed to have started with a motor vehicle.
Hamill said there a number of similarities between these fires which are being investigated by the RFD arson taskforce. All of the car fires occurred near midnight. “Once we have ruled out electrical and mechanical problems, it usually means arson. We believe we have a serial arsonist on our hands.”
On Nov. 2, two fires currently being investigated as arson occurred — the first around 6 p.m. on Riverside Drive where a storage building caught on fire and at 11 p.m. in the 3300 block of Bandolina Avenue when mattresses in an alley were set alight.
He urges anyone who has surveillance cameras to review the footage and contact the fire department or the police department if they see anything.”We are asking that all citizens in Roswell be on the lookout for any suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. What is most concerning is the fact that these car fires are now being lit close to residences and people’s lives have been placed in jeopardy,” Hamill said.
Arson was suspected with a fire set at the old New Mexico Rehabilitation Center on Gail Harris Loop on Aug. 8. The RFD investigated a potential case of arson on July 17 along East Reed Street. A second fire occurred that week on July 19 on South Mulberry.
On April 12, the RFD was dispatched to the 600 block of East Mathews Street, where a home occupied by a 56-year-old man caught on fire. On March 3, around midnight officers from the RPD responded to the 200 block of East Jefferson Street in reference to arson. Firefighters responded and extinguished the fire on the camper trailer roof Interviews with witnesses indicated a subject was seen lighting something on fire and then throwing it on the roof. Investigation revealed a broken bottle with a piece of burnt cloth.
Around Feb. 14, the police were dispatched to the intersection of Sunset Avenue and McGaffey Street, after a concerned citizen reported a juvenile setting a field on fire. The juvenile was found hiding between a bush and fence.
In February and March, the RFD reported four separate cases of arson. In an interview dated Feb. 26, Fire Marshall Bill Wells said, “It’s no coincidence that we have had four structure fires in a one block area between Wildy and East Forest streets in the last six weeks.”
On Feb. 19, the RFD was called to a series of three fires, two dumpster fires and a structure fire, in a 36-hour period. The house burned with such intensity that the fire department pulled back and concentrated on protecting adjacent buildings.
A fire occurred in the 500 block of East Forest Street on Feb.18 when the RPD received a report of a prowler. When officers arrived on the scene they found a smoldering shed which had water seeping out from beneath the door. The fire was extinguished when the pvc water pipes melted and burst.
More than 15 fires are believed to be deliberately set in the last year. Hamill would not say if the most recent fires are connected to the previous cases. However, he has no doubt about the connection between the four fires that have been set in the past two weeks. Anyone with information about these fires is asked to contact RFD at 624-6800 or contact Crime Stoppers 888-594-TIPS (8477).