String of arsons plaguing Stephens County - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

String of arsons plaguing Stephens County

Stephens County_Some Stephens County residents say they are under attack, and their fire chief agrees.  Officials say that for at least two years an arsonist has been targeting pastures, homes, and land.

Corum's fire chief says that in the past week, they have been called on so many fires that his firefighters are suffering from exhaustion as they often ended up battling several fires per day.  Fire Chief R.D. Gaither says much of his equipment also is on its last legs. 

Gaither says in 2008 they have been called to 80 fires - three to four times the number of fires they normally fight.  He says he believes 75% of those fires were arson.  "We have been on a fire and had another fire set while we were fighting the first grass fire," he said.  "It almost makes you feel like this area is under attack by someone."

The fire chief says that now that school is out for the holidays, the fires seem to be ramping up - most recently a fire was set to a pasture on Christmas Eve, destroying 15-20 acres of land.  Gaither says the fire was set using pop bottles filled with rocks with rags hanging out of them.  He says it isn't the first time fires in Stephens County have been set this way.  "We have found plastic pop bottles with rocks and rags hanging out of them - what's left of them," he said.  "We have found pieces of pipe with square tubing with rags and papers stuffed in them, we have found nuts and bolts in wads of paper that have been lit so it could be thrown."

Other fires have taken down structures, and one two-story house didn't stand a chance after a fire was started in some nearby grass.  The owner of the home was at Fort Hood at the time the blaze was set.  Another fire destroyed a large vacant house several weeks ago, and at a home adjacent to that one, Gaither says he believes the arsonist actually broke in and set the structure on fire from the inside.

The chief is pleading for the public's help.  "They [the arsonists] need to stop it now before someone gets killed in one of these fires - it needs to STOP."  The state fire marshal's office, and the Stephens County Sheriff's Department are investigating.  The sheriff's investigators say they have found the same type of evidence at a lot of the crime scenes, leading them to believe it's one group - or one individual - setting the fires.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.  If you have information, call 580-439-2211.
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