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Officials looking into string of arsons

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LAWTON, Okla_After a string of arsons that have plagued an old Lawton neighborhood over the past year, the Lawton Fire Marshal's office said they now believe one person may be responsible.

Fire marshals have investigated several fires this year, 11 of them within a one-square mile zone from 11th Street to Railroad and Lee Boulevard to Gore. While many of those have been ruled accidental, five of them remain open arson cases.

Fire investigators are still collecting information. As of now they are searching for someone they believe could have information that would lead to an arrest. So far, only vacant or abandoned homes have been set on fire, but fire marshals worry the suspected arsonist could turn his attention to occupied homes and put people's lives in danger.

Boarded up homes, cleared lots and even charred remains can be found up and down the streets of the neighborhood all left behind after homes or structures were set on fire.

"You know especially structure fires, it's not something that happens on a regular basis," Investigator Chris Woodall said.

But it is something that Lawton Fire Investigator Woodall said is happening all too often along these streets.

"In the same part of town, I've made myself I can think of two different arrests in regards to people setting fire in that area."

He said so often investigators were forced to take a closer look.

"It seems like there's more here than meets the eye if you will, and that's when we start looking at it as a group."

He said this area is an easy target since many structures are left to fend for themselves and are at the mercy of criminals including arsonists.

"The structures in that area are older, they're not as well maintained, and it's harder to find people to occupy those places whether it is families or single people."

A vacant structure was the most recent arson target within the neighborhood. Woodall said occupied, or not, when a fire is set, a lot is on the line.

"It can sure spread into neighboring houses and possibly injure or kill somebody."

That particular fire leveled that building and spread across the alley and set a fence on fire and even downed power lines. It took firefighters some time to reach since their fire engines couldn't fit down the narrow alleyway.

The fire marshal's office is working with the police department on this string of arsons. They ask if you have any information to call Crimestoppers at 355-INFO.

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