TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Toledo Fire Chief Mike Wolever says the 80 suspicious fires this year in Toledo are the worst rash of arson he's seen in 33 years as a firefighter.
He says crews are seeing two or three suspicious fires a night in the Glass City.
The structures are mostly vacant homes in residential neighborhoods. "It's a big concern for me," said Wolever. "If the house next door to you is on fire in the middle of the night and you're sleeping, you're in great risk."
The majority of the suspicious fires have been in east Toledo and south Toledo. Homes are close together, so multiple homes are usually damaged with each fire.
Additionally, Wolever says the arsonists are setting up the fires with such intensity that firefighters often cannot get inside to work on putting it out. The number of firefighters getting injured on scene is increasing as well. Half a dozen have fallen through floors when they do get inside a house.
As for who is starting the suspected arsons, Wolever said they just don't know at this time. At first, they thought it was a gang. But the number of fires has escalated so much, and the affected area has become so diverse, that investigators just aren't sure anymore. There are criminal profiles for arsonists, but investigators don't know which profile is correct at this time.
Tips coming in to Crime Stopper point to many different people, but all that evidence is circumstantial.
"It's going to come from a neighbor," said Wolever. "The fires are starting to show up in the middle of the day. That means somebody is seeing something, and they're just not making the connection."
Residents should be vigilant about watching vacant houses in their neighborhoods. "If you see someone around a vacant house, walking back and forth or walking around the back of the house, that person is up to no good. Give us a call," Wolever said.
The reward has been increased to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest or conviction of a person or persons responsible for the arsons. Anyone with information can call CrimeStopper at 419-255-1111.