Rockford Fire investigating fourth case of arson inside a week

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Three people and an infant were forced out of their home early Friday morning after someone set it on fire.

The Rockford Fire Department says both the house and a car on Forest Avenue were deliberately set on fire, making it the fourth case of arson in Rockford this week.

The first occurred Friday, August 9th at an apartment complex on Underwood Street.

An abandoned house on Pope Street was set fire to on Monday morning, and investigators said a fire was also started inside a nearby abandoned home.

Michael Schnaper, the lead investigator, says there are many factors which led the the belief that the fire was intentionally set.

“You have multiple points of origin, that lead us to think, ‘oh, wait a second…fires don’t usually start at two separate places at the same location,'” he said.

The fire happened around 3 a.m.

Red Cross volunteer Scott Suma said, “The house seemed to be pretty much decimated.”

Not only was there damage to the house, but also the silver Jeep in the driveway, which had flames shooting from it when the fire department arrived.

“One of the things that makes fire investigation, in general, difficult, is that, yes, we do lose some evidence, which is why it’s so important for us to be so meticulous as possible when we’re on a fire scene,” Schnaper said.

Investigators are working to determine if the four cases of arson are connected.

“You don’t know that something is related until you have definitive proof that says that,” he said. “Like I said, we pursue every lead. Sometimes, when we have clusters of fires, they are related. Sometimes, it’s just a coincidence. So, a lot of it depends on what we find, over the course of our investigation.”

Three adults and a baby were able to get out of the house before the fire spread.

That’s when Suma and Kate Rehak, of the Red Cross, stepped in.

“We respond, we give immediate assistance, and then there is some follow up done by the Red Cross,” they said.

Rockford Fire says the arsonist could face jail time.

“What makes it unique, in terms of priority, is the fact that there were four people inside the house at the time of the fire, which is a very serious crime. It’s a Class X Felony. That carries up to 30 years in jail, per count,” he said.

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