Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 21, 2013

Authorities suspect arson in PPC fires


Mineral Wells Index

— By CHRIS AGEE



County Fire Marshal Buddy Harwell explained nine separate fires over the past two weeks have led to suspicion they were the work of an arsonist.

"They've all been on 180 and FM 4 around the Palo Pinto area," he said. "We're trying to get help [from] anybody who sees anything suspicious or out of the ordinary."

In addition to the close proximity of the fires to one another, Harwell said they have all been small in nature and have generally been reported around 8 or 9 p.m.

One of the fires was just across the Jack County line, he said, but fit "kind of the same pattern." According to Precinct 4 Constable Jim Roberts, the issue was discussed at a county fire meeting Tuesday evening.

He noted he responded to one recent fire in Palo Pinto which burned about 100 feet of property alongside 2nd Street and spread to nearby cedar trees prior to the arrival of firefighters.

There was "no apparent reason for [the fires] to be burning; it was cool," he said. "A cigarette could not have started the one in Palo Pinto."

Roberts also mentioned another fire west of Palo Pinto on Dodson Prairie, which he said was described at the county fire meeting as being "mechanically" started and likely the work of an arsonist.

Lone Camp Fire Chief Charlie Sims responded to a number of the suspected arson fires, noting the damage so far has fortunately been relatively minimal.

"They've all been started on the side of the road," he said. "None of them have done anything but burn themselves a little bit – nothing major."

The biggest concern, he said, is that county officials have "no idea as to who, what, or anything like that."

Several factors contributed to the suspicion of arson, Sims noted.

"We have a fire, then two hours later we have a fire," he explained. "Two south of Palo Pinto, one north, three west and one east of Palo Pinto. This has been in the last two weeks."

Witnesses and potential leads have been few so far, he added.

One rural resident reported noticing a small gray car in the area of the latest fire just before it started, though he cautioned there is no other evidence indicating the vehicle's involvement in the incident.

Harwell said authorities have not identified a person or persons of interest, explaining anyone with relevant information can contact him at (940) 325-5762, or the Palo Pinto County Sheriff's Office at (940) 659-2085.

Any help would be appreciated.