String Of Suspicious Fire Has Some Residents On Edge

WACO (June 19, 2013)--A string of about two-dozen suspicious fires over the past 18 months in North Waco that could be the work of a serial arsonist has some residents on edge, including Bill Estelle, whose 98-year-old father lives across the street from a vacant house that burned.

The fire in the house on North 5th Street in Waco was the second in two weeks. (File)

The fire spread to the house next door, displacing the family that lived there.

Estelle is worried that the same thing could happen to the home of his father, who can’t walk, has Alzheimer’s disease and whose wife died just a few days ago, leaving the family in mourning.

"You can understand the concern with him not able to walk, if they set this house on fire, it's going to be rough and being a wooden house it's going to go up pretty quick,” he said.

The most recent fire broke out Sunday night in a house that caught fire two weeks earlier.

The vacant two-story house at 1316 North 5th St. was a total loss.

On Tuesday police and fire officials urged North Waco residents to be vigilant.

“Citizens are often times our first line of defense in catching criminals. Sometimes this can be accomplished with a simple phone call,” Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said.

But Estelle says police and fire officials need to be talking with North Waco residents.

"No one knows what's going on because you would think the fire department or the police department would come out and talk to the neighborhood, but they're not doing that which is one reason why I'm trying to seek outside help. "

He said he has been taking pictures of debris from the fires and plans to contact the Texas Rangers and the FBI.

“The fire and police departments are working together to determine if in fact these fires are related and possibly the work of a serial arsonist.” Swanton said Tuesday.

“Most of these fires have occurred in vacant homes,” he said.

“Many of these have been ‘suspicious’ in nature, some obviously set with intention,” he said.

Police and fire officials are urging residents to call 911 to report any suspicious activity, particularly around vacant homes and buildings, providing as much detail as possible about what they saw and the people and vehicles involved, Swanton said.

Residents who provide information leading to an arrest may be eligible for Crime Stoppers rewards.

Tips can be provided anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers at (254) 753-HELP.

(John Carroll and Ke’Sha Lopez contributed to this story)