String of suspicious fires in the city of Waterville

A string of suspicious fires have broken out across Waterville in the past month. On April 3, a small fire started in a bedroom displaced five people  from an assisted living home on Pleasant Street in Waterville. The fire was contained to one room and was stopped by a sprinkler system, extinguishing the fire before the Waterville Fire Department arrived at the scene. The home, operated by Motivational Services Inc, an organization based in Augusta that provides events and services for people with mental illness. After the fire was reported at 7:56 A.M. by an unknown source, five people were evacuated once the fire-fighters arrived at the scene.

The state fire marshal’s office confirmed the fire as arson.

On March 27, a truck  parked at 43 Elm Street was destroyed by fire. The vehicle was a 2011 Tacoma Toyota pick-up truck. Five minutes after the truck fire was reported at 10:44 P.M., a fire was reported at an apartment building at 58 Silver Street, just 100 yards from the truck. The three story building has five apartments.

The fires, set inside a first floor area closet and in the first floor stairway, seemingly were intended to prevent the apartment building’s tenants from getting out. Sergeant Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office told
The Morning Sentinel that stairway fires are unusual. The police, who had originally been called to the truck fire, ran through the woods to the apartment building and assisted in getting the tenants out. Last year, there was a fire in the same building, but it was electrical.

This flare up of arson is not exclusive to the city of Waterville; on March 21, a fire destroyed an Oakland mobile home at 431 Trafton Road. The fire was set inside the home while  the homeowners were away for the winter. Thirty-five firefighters from Oakland, Rome, Belgrade, Sidney, Fairfield and Waterville reported to the scene at 3:30 P.M..

Arson is not a new problem for  Waterville. In 2015, there was a large, human-started fire on February 22nd on Waterville’s Paris Street. The fire was reported at 10 A.M. and called over forty firefighters to the scene. The fire was started in a 2nd floor apartment, and there were no injuries. The fire displaced twelve people from the home, and they were assisted by Red Cross.

Carli Jaff ’16 told The Echo “I think that knowing that there is someone in Waterville purposefully setting fires is scary in general, but thinking that that person could come up to campus and do damage to some of our buildings, especially with all the new construction planned is worrisome. Additionally, it makes me nervous about all of the investments we are making in downtown Waterville.”

Several anonymous sources  who are intimate with the details of the situation have told The Echo that they believe that one arsonist is responsible for these recent string of fires, and possibly connected to the Paris Street fire.

According to the data from the United States Fire Administration, Maine ranks second in percent of rural fires and is 20th in the country for fire death rates. Maine.gov’s 2014 statistics on arson show a steady decline in reported cases, with 245 incidents reported in 2010 and only 99 reported in 2014. Statistics on 2015 were not available. The months of highest occurrence are March and July, and 52.6% of perpetrators are under the age of twenty four.