Firefighters need tips on arson cases at vacant house

POSTED: 7:15 PM Jul 15 2013   UPDATED: 7:17 PM Jul 15 2013
Sandefer fires 07-15-13
ABILENE, Texas -

Arson has been determined as the cause of two fires at a vacant Abilene home, according to fire investigators.

Within the last two months, three fires have broken out at a home in the 2000 block of Sandefer Street. According to Lt. Greg Goettsch, the first and third fires were intentionally set.

The second fire is still under investigation; however, hot embers from the first fire could have re-ignited the original fire.

The first fire was set in late May and the most recent was set July 13. Firefighters are searching for suspects and the investigation is classified as a high priority.

The home has been vacant and without utility services for an extended period of time. Neighbors have not seen any tenants for years.

Brady Holder, who lives next door, said he has witnessed all three fires.

“[I] noticed it when I got up to get a drink,” Holder said. “I saw orange from my back window and I came out and I was like what the hell? Again?”

Goettsch said vacant house fires can quickly get out of hand because they can go unnoticed for hours. When firefighters arrived on scene Saturday, they first had to protect surrounding homes because the flames were too hot to fight immediately.

“It's hard to tell from the front, but the entire rear of the structure is burned out,” Goettsch said. “The roof is burned out—[it’s a] very unsafe structure right now—and we're trying to discover who did this.”

Firefighters are working to get in touch with the owner.

“To my knowledge, the owner is an investment group from out-of-town and the home has been empty for quite some time,’ Goettsch said. “We didn't displace any occupants with fires we've had here or anything like that, you know, hopefully it hasn't impacted any families but I think it has impacted the investment company.”

Holder, however, said the fires have impacted him as well.

“I hope that don't happen to me so I'm trying to move,” Holder said.

Several investigators are working on the case and welcome tips. Anonymous tips can be reported to Abilene Crime Stoppers at (325) 676-TIPS.

In Texas, arson is punishable by two to 20 years in prison if nobody is hurt or injured.