Arson on the rise in Richmond County

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News 12 at 11, February 4, 2008

AUGUSTA, Ga. --- Arson is on the rise in Richmond County. Just this year there have been at least eight cases.

The first fire was at the Family Dollar on Walton Way in January. No one was hurt, but investigators say it was arson.

Another fire happened over the weekend on Albright Lane. The house was abandoned and the fire destroyed the home. Witnesses say they saw a woman leaving the scene right before the fire broke out, and investigators say it may have been arson.

Fire investigators are doing all they can to put a stop to all of it.

Melissa Brooker spent the day moving in to her new apartment. On Sunday, she noticed fire trucks on her street but didn't know the fire, two houses away, was arson.

"I really don't feel good about it. Knowing that I just signed a lease and moving in," Brooker said.

Brooker said its a bad feeling, knowing it happened so close.

"You would think maybe they have kids over there, starting a fire but knowing that its's kind of scary," Brooker said.

Fire Investigator, Lt. Neal Brown has seen more and more arson cases. And he's trying to do something about it by hanging up reward posters to help solve the latest string of arson cases.

On Saturday February 2nd, a house fire on Albright Lane. The house was abandoned, and witnesses said they saw a woman leaving the scene right before the fire broke out.

And Sunday February 3rd, another house fire here on Parnell Street. Lt. Brown said the back porch was set on fire. Fire investigators said both cases were arson. Lt. Brown said a lot of the arsons are revenge and drug-related.

"It will be retaliation for some reason. Somebody else moved into their neighborhood and they want them out," Lt. Brown said.

And it's a familiar sight for Lt. Brown. He's already been working on eight arson cases just in the month of January. The Sheriff's Office said arsons were up 120% last year. There were 26 arsons in 2006 and 64 arsons in 2007.

"The arsons are up and we're working on those real hard to try and correct those," Lt. Brown said.

The Augusta Fire Department said they're trying to bring the numbers down by working together with the Sheriff's Office.

"What we're trying to do is, be real progressive in these arson fires trying to investigate them as best we can along with the Sheriff's Department we're working hand and hand," Lt. Brown said.

If you have any information on these arson cases, call the Richmond County Sheriff's Office or the Fire Marshalls Office at 706-821-2929.

You can get a reward up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person responsible for arson. All you have to do is call the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804. You can remain anonymous.

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