ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The Rockford-area has seen a lot of fires recently, some accidental and some intentional.
The ones set on purpose come with a serious consequence for arsonists. Division Chief Matthew Knott of the Rockford Fire Department said that is why fire safety efforts are so important. Having working smoke alarms, detectors and an evacuation plan is key to making sure that families are safe.
“A bulk of our fires are related to cooking, and that is generally careless cooking,” Knott said.
A lot of accidental fires are preventable with more caution, but the department has lately been responding to fires that have been set on purpose, according to Knott. They got an early morning call over the weekend for an apartment fire on Canary Drive.
“Our crews initially found several small fires that were set throughout that building, and then also another building across the way that had multiple small fires also,” Knott said. “Initially they were dispatched as two separate building fires, so we quickly sent quite a few personnel.”
RFD sent over 40 firefighters to the scene. Knott said that they were able to downsize crews and free up resources once they assessed the situation. There were two fires on E. State Street a couple of days before that.
One was set outside the front door of Bethesda Covenant Church.
“We take these incidents very, very seriously,” Knott said. “We look at all the potential lives that we put at risk. Investigators have been working on this diligently since those fires occurred. We do believe they are arson, and we are working to develop some suspects and take this ultimately to prosecution.”
The charges associated with arson are Class X felonies, according to Knott.
“Ultimately, we’re very successful in prosecuting arsons, and there’s no reason at this point in time to not suspect we’ll have a suspect in custody very quickly on the Canary Drive fires,” he said.
Knott added that they have a suspect in custody, awaiting trial, in connection to the Bethesda Church Fire. They will be facing two counts of Arson Related to a Place of Worship.
Anyone with information on any ongoing investigations should contact the Rockford Fire Department, (779) 348-7171.