Fire Marshal: More Than One Suspect Possible in Pike Road Arsons

There are new developments in a series of Pike Road arsons, including the possibility copycat firebugs are at work.

There's a rule of thumb about serial arsons that works against the criminal. Generally speaking, the more crime scenes investigators have to work with, the better the chance the suspect will make a mistake.

Right now, the best clue detectives are working with is geography.

"All of the fires - they're all occuring in the boundaries of the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Department, where they respond to," said State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk.

A simple map (at left) illustrates the point.

The red marks denote where ten of the 15 fires are located. The rest are so close to the others it's hard to separate them out. If you remove the dot at the far south end of the map, that means the vast majority of fires are within a five mile radius of each other.  That says something to Paulk.

"They could be all related, or we could have some copycattin' going on in the same geographic location," he said.

Investigators won't talk about certain things like the use of accelerants. They don't want to tip the firebug - or bugs - off. But Paulk revealed one thing about the case.

"Do we have a psychologist looking at this right now or a profiler looking at this case right now? No, we do not," he said.  "A lot of the time, that is done when you've exhausted your leads. We still have leads we are actively working."

But whoever is setting the fires are escaping easy detection. That says they might know something about the mechanics of building and structure fires.  In turn, that means Paulk has to consider what some call the unthinkable.

"No one likes to think of a police officer involved in crime or a firefighter being involved in arson," Paulk said.  "Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world and that does happen from time to time and we're not going to overlook any possibilities."

Neither police nor the fire marshal will say they are close to an arrest.  But, in Paulk's words, if he says he's close, an arrest will come in a day or two. That isn't the case right now.

But investigators will will say this much: they have enough evidence established that they can start to piece together a pattern. Paulk says that means they are closer to identifying a suspect.

Investigators would also like to hear any tips the public might have. The fire marshall is asking us to publicize a phone number -  the State Arson hotline. It's 800-654-0775 and tipsters can remain anonymous.