The Next Piece of the Fire Puzzle? Ex-Fire Marshal on Accelerants. - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

The Next Piece of the Fire Puzzle? Ex-Fire Marshal on Accelerants.

There are new developments in the investigation into the latest rash of Alabama church arsons.

WSFA 12 News has learned that the tenth arson case in Lamar County does not fit the pattern as the first nine fires.

Insurance Commissioner Walter Bell told a statewide insurance group Thursday the Beaverton church fire is exceptional because it was set outside and it started in the afternoon. The first nine fires in northwestern Alabama all began early in the morning, and investigators say the arsonists started them from inside the churches.

No new fires have erupted since Saturday, when that small Baptist church in Lamar County burst into flames. But that doesn't mean there aren't new clues to pursue.

The ashes the criminals left behind carry a chemical calling card.  It's something anybody who has ever used rolled up newspaper to start a fire knows.

It's confirmed when you look into the aftermath of one of the most recent fires.

"Fires do not necessarily consume everything that will burn," said former state fire marshal John Robison.  Robison led the investigation into the several church fires from 1996 until 2001.

If you listen carefully at any of the arson scenes, you'll hear one of the best tools to prove that. It's the sound of a dog barking.

Robinson says because of their sensitive noses, it doesn't matter how large or how long a fire burns.

"Flammable and combustible liquids, they can become trapped in all types of areas," he said.

In nearly every case, accelerant sniffing dogs will find whatever an arsonist used to start the inferno. He recalls a multistory hotel fire where the top stories collapsed on the lower floors.

"The dog told the handler where to dig and even indicated to the handler how deep to dig," Robison said.

Nowadays, even the most common accelerants like gasoline have specific company formulas. If there's any left behind, detectives can track it down.

"Even to the point of identifying exactly which, if it's a gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel, exactly which tank those came out of at a specific service station, convenience store or whatever it might have been sold," Robison said.

The ATF won't confirm if investigators found evidence of accelerants at any fire site, but they did tell us they have samples in the lab for analysis.

We also want to revisit what we talked about a couple days ago, that of a geographic connection to the fires.

We plotted out every church arson in Alabama since 1996 and we discovered a potential pattern. The vast majority are near a jagged triangle that Interstates 20/59, 65 and Highway 80 form.

All but eight of the 34 fires are within just a few miles of these roads.

What does it mean?

Nobody's willing to say if it means anything - not even John Robison. It's easy to speculate about whether these are copycats of the original outburst, or if it's the same people - or if it's just a coinidence, but it is interesting to see the pattern.

The ATF remains confident it can solve the arsons.

Investigators are still hoping to hear from the suspects to understand why they are burning the churches.

The number for the arsonists to call is 205-343-9531. They can also email investigators at talkwithus@cox.net.

Reporter: Chris Holmes

Powered by Frankly