Lawton_Lawton Police continue their search for the suspect in a string of recent arson fires. But, authorities say they need your help in the case. Over the past three weeks, the suspect(s) has set fire in at least five different locations - four in the last three days. 7News reported on a recent porch fire and a suspicious car fire - but the latest fire happened at the Carmike Cinema and a dumpster behind Easton's Ace Hardware, on the 6900 block of Northwest Cache Road. Now, the fire marshal is asking for your help. "These are extremely heinous crimes," says Fire Marshal Mark Mitchell. "The 1st degree arson is what we're talking about, and the reason those are felonies is because people do become injured or die because of those fires."
Fire officials say that in four of the five fires, gasoline was used - and there is a pattern. The suspect pours gasoline as he or she walks away...creating a trail. Mitchell says this method is probably used so that the arsonist can escape without injury. Each of the five fires were within one mile of each other - four have been ruled arson, and the fifth "suspicious." Now, the arsonist is escalating form car fires to occupied buildings. "This has got to stop," says Mitchell. "The fires are escalating, and it's a matter of time before somebody is injured or worse."
The pattern began about three weeks ago at 7111 Birch where a vehicle was set on fire. "We had gasoline poured in the back of a pickup and also placed on the owner's Cadillac Escalade SUV," says Mitchell. Evidence of the fire still remains on the license plate, driveway, and dead grass in the yard. Then, early Wednesday morning, a porch fire was set at 6815 NW Willow Spring - and less than two hours later, a car fire at 6215 NW Oak. "It just looks awful suspicious because of the proximity to the other fires and the time of night," Mitchell says.
On Wednesday night, things took a turn for the worse when Lawton police responded to a dumpster fire behind Ace Hardware. At about the same time, someone also tried to set fire to Carmike Cinemas just as the new Batman movie had let out- gasoline stains remain on the emergency exit door. "Approximately 60 people in it [the theater], just prior to or about the time this fire was set. We're very fortunate no one was injured or worse here at this scene," says Mitchell. A piece of wood blocking a small hole leading to another theater was also surrounded by gasoline doused-paper.
Mitchell says they need help to solve the five fires, and he asks that everyone living in the area be extra cautious and keep an eye open late at night and early in the morning. He asks that you report any suspicious activity - you may have a piece of information that they need to catch the suspect. If you know anything about these five fires, or have noticed anything suspicious in the areas of the fires, call Crimestoppers at 580-355-INFO. As always you can remain anonymous and your tip could earn you a cash reward.
Count on 7News to keep you updated.
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