Fire crews want Lawrence apartments on alert for arsonist - KCTV5

Fire crews want Lawrence apartments on alert after arsonist strikes 8 times

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Firefighters are warning people in Lawrence, KS, because they said someone is setting fires in apartment buildings where people live on purpose.

As many as eight fires have been started in an area of Lawrence but, thankfully, no one has been hurt so far.

The fire chief said the eight different apartment building fires are no accident - all have been purposely set on fire, including one that just happened Wednesday morning. The chief is warning apartment residents to be on high alert.

The charred door and part of the melted linoleum floor are still visible. Ellie Detherage was asleep early Wednesday morning when someone set a fire in the laundry room right next door to her apartment near 24th and Arkansas streets.

"I just saw smoke billowing, it was coming from right there, and I saw smoke so I just got out," she said.

Detherage is thankful one of her neighbors heard the smoke alarm and banged on doors to make sure everyone got out safe. Now, she's also upset to learn someone is putting families in danger.

"I think it's horrible because it was at a horrible hour in the morning and no one would have known, really, had my neighbor not been awake, so I'm really glad he was awake," she said.

"I can tell you that they are not accidental in nature. They are intentionally set," Lawrence Fire Chief Mark Bradford said.

Bradford said, since Oct. 19, there have been eight cases of arson in occupied apartments in south central Lawrence from West 23rd Street to West 25th Street and Iowa Street east to Naismith Drive.

"I can't say if one person or a number of people, but there are similarities in the types of incidents we are responding to," he said.

Bradford said the fires are being set in public areas of the apartments. He won't say what's being used as an accelerant, but fire officials are following several leads to track down who's responsible before someone gets hurt.

"There have been a couple of witnesses that have seen a variety of different people. Nothing has really gotten to a point that I can discuss those situations. We are still running down a number of leads," he said.

The fire department and police are working together to stop the arsons, but they need the public's help. If anyone has any information about who is starting the fires, they are asked to call the TIPS Hotline at 785-843-TIPS.

In the meantime, the fire department has been talking to apartment owners, managers and residents to make sure their smoke alarms are working and they practice their fire safety in case the arsonists hits their building.

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