Arsonists who torched 9 vehicles are sought

04/07/2014 8:52 PM

04/09/2014 1:43 PM

Arson investigators continued to search Tuesday for the traveling firebugs who set nine vehicles ablaze early Saturday on the city’s south side.

Firefighters responded to the blazes from 4:02 to 4:41 a.m. Saturday in a 2.5-mile area north and south of West Berry Street and near Cleburne Road/McCart Avenue. Three were in the Ryan Place neighborhood. Others were to the south.

Investigators are confident that the blazes were set.

One of the cars was parked in a driveway and the rest were parked on streets, Fort Worth arson investigator Brad Sims said during a news conference Monday.

“We do have it figured out, how they started these fires,” Sims said. But he declined to give specifics.

“And, yes,” he said, “it’s dangerous to start a fire with something as volatile as a car because of so much fuel involved.”

Several leads have been developed, Sims said, but no suspects have been identified. He declined to say whether any “persons of interest” have been identified.

Investigators have received home security videos that show a dark sedan and a white crew-cab pickup with black side molding at more than one of the fires.

“So that’s at least two actors,” Sims said.

The investigation would be helped by more tips from the public and surveillance videos, he said.

The vehicle fires were in the 2700 and 2800 blocks of Ryan Place Drive; the 2700 block of Fifth Avenue; in the 3200 block of South Adams Street; in the 3600 block of Willing Avenue; in the 4000 block of Frazier Avenue; in the 4700 block of Lubbock Avenue; at the intersection of Townsend Drive and West Butler Street; and in the 3400 block of Livingston Avenue.

Sims, an arson investigator for nine years, said the people responsible for the fires are a danger not only to the community but also to themselves.

“A lot of times we find our suspects at the hospital,” he said.

A dollar estimate of the damage was not available, he said. The vehicles were a mix of makes and models.

Marsha Henderson said Monday that her 10-year-old Toyota Sienna minivan was torched outside the home of her daughter, Megan Carroll Henderson, in the 2800 block of Ryan Place Drive, where she had spent the night.

Megan Henderson said her neighbor, Dallas firefighter Justin McKinney, heard a wumph and went outside to investigate. He saw the minivan ablaze and started trying to put out the flames.

Fort Worth firefighters, already in the neighborhood to fight the other fires, also arrived, Megan Henderson said.

Her mother’s minivan is a total loss. Marsha Henderson said she did not expect to get much from the insurance company because the vehicle was 10 years old.

But mother and daughter said the quick actions of neighbors, some they didn’t yet know, solidified their appreciation of the neighborhood.

“I think it was a random act and a senseless act,” Megan Henderson said. “I can’t imagine why anybody would get a kick out of this.

“But we’re really fortunate to have such neighbors who care about us — just that they ran out to help protect our property and that they risked their lives.

“It’s not my favorite way to meet new neighbors, but it definitely was a new opportunity.”

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