Clinton fire and police officials are investigating a string of small fires set over the course of the past several weeks outside the offices of The Sampson Independent.
In total, there have been four separate incidents of fires being set, the most recent of which burned recycling containers to the ground. Officers with the Clinton Police Department and firefighters with Clinton Fire Department are now requesting the public’s assistance with the arson probe.
The incidents occurred on March 2, March 7, March 18 and March 22. During the most recent incident, police arrived to the scene to find the recycling containers in the back parking lot (Ferrell Street side) on fire.
Authorities have been able to access a picture of a person of interest in the fires, and are calling on the public to help identify the female, who appears to be about 5 feet, 4 inches tall, with a stocky build and short hair. Her ethnicity is not clear from the photos.
“We’ve down a canvas of the neighborhood, knocked on doors and talked with people, and so far we don’t have any leads,” said Sgt. Robbie King, who heads up the Detective Division. “We’re asking anyone to come forward who thinks they might know who this is. We’ll take any lead, no matter how small it is.”
King said the department is utilizing all available resources to identify the person responsible for the arson. With four incidents in a span of three weeks, it is believed to be beyond a simple random act. In fact, investigators said the frequency of the fires are startling.
“We haven’t had a multiple incident like this in a very long time. It’s very rare,” King said. “Arsonists usually don’t come back to the same place over and over and over again — maybe the same street, but a different location.”
Anybody who has information about the possible identity of the person of interest is asked to contact the Clinton Police Department at 910-592-3105. People may also provide information through the Clinton Police Department Tip Line, at 910-590-3009 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All tipsters will remain anonymous.
While no structural damage was done to the Independent offices or nearby homes, which are mere yards away, strong winds could make a dumpster fire much more serious, King noted. Additionally, the Clinton-Sampson Rescue building is on the same block and the City of Clinton Public Works and Utilities’ temporary offices are just across Ferrell Street from where the incidents have taken place.
“If the wind had gotten a hold of (the fire), it could have damaged the whole block,” King said.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.