Is there an arsonist running around Somerville, Massachusetts? City officials believe there is and are offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of any person or persons involved in setting the fires.
Since June 27, there have been 13 house fires in the city. Investigators have labeled four as arson, five as suspicious and under investigation and four have been deemed accidental. The latest fire occurred on Sept. 6 on Laurel Terrace.
At a press conference announcing the reward, Somerville police and fire investigators were also joined by representatives from the City of Cambridge police and fire departments. Cambridge is investigating two suspicious fires that have occured in the past few weeks which have some similarities to the Somerville fires, although Cambridge Assistant Fire Chief Gerald Mahoney was quoted as saying, “We’re having some discussions, but the [modus operandi] is different.”
Officials are urging residents to be on the lookout and report any suspicious activity. They also urged residents to protect themselves from arson. Noting that many of these fires were set on back porches of the homes, Chief Kevin Kelleher offered these tips:
- Remove overstuffed furniture from porches.
- Remove highly flammable items from outdoor areas that are close to your home. Items such as piles of leaves and yard waste, stacks of paper, flammable liquids, candles, charcoal, hanging laundry, rags and stuffed seat cushions should not be close to your home.
- Lock all doors and windows, including doors and windows into your basement.
- Turn on outside lights, including lights on front and back porches.
- Don't store trash or recycling under porches. Wait until trash day to put it outside.
Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello told attendees of the press conference that the investigation had been relentless, “We’ve devoted every resource possible including support that comes from our state and federal departments. No expense will be missing as far as what is required to bring the people responsible to justice in this investigation.”
The number of the tip line that residents should call with any information is 617-629-1847.
Emergency Film Group’s Fire Investigation Package is a two-part series of training videos demonstrating the investigation of fires. Topics covered include how fires typically begin, fire behavior, how firefighting tactics may affect the fire and destroy evidence, methods for determining the point of origin and cause of the fire, identifying accidental fire vs. arson and gathering evidence. To learn more, read here. . .