Jonesboro fire marshal needs help to solve two arson cases

Hilltop Self-Storage, located on Old Greensboro Road
Hilltop Self-Storage, located on Old Greensboro Road
Apartment building, located on E. Alpine Street
Apartment building, located on E. Alpine Street

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – The Jonesboro Fire Department needsthe community's help to solve two cases of arson.

Investigators determined burglars likely set the fire onJanuary 9 that destroyed an apartment building on East Alpine Street. Therehave been no arrests related to this fire, and now there is another incident ofarson to investigate.

In addition to the arson at the apartment, Jonesboro FireMarshal Jason Wills said someone started a fire on January 15 to cover up a separatebreak-in at a local storage unit. Firefighters have no suspects in this caseeither, but are possibly looking for someone that got injured after causing agun safe to explode.

This latest arson happened at Hilltop Self-Storage locatedon Old Greensboro Road in Jonesboro. A fire was set inside one of the storageunits where the owners kept all their video surveillance equipment.

"[The owners] were utilizing a gun safe to keep the videoequipment safe," Wills explained. "Someone had forced entry into that unit, andwe believe they poured gasoline in the safe. Either the electrical componentssparked the ignition, or [the suspects] ignited it with something."

Wills said he believes the fire was an attempt to cover up aburglary and destroy surveillance equipment that might have captured suspectsbreaking into other storage units.

"The safe had holes in the back of it to allow forventilation of the electrical equipment inside it," Wills said. "Based on theevidence that we were able to collect at the scene, we feel that gasoline waspoured into the safe. The vapors being concentrated in a contained vessel – oncethey ignited either by the electrical components or by ignition from the personresponsible – caused an explosion and a catastrophic failure to the safe."

The explosion inside the gun safe was powerful enough toblast off the door and hurl it into the other wall.

"The door was blown off; the safe was distorted," Willssaid. "We did not find any evidence where the person used a trailer, whichmeans they may have trailed gasoline or something and ignited that from aremote location, so we feel that there's a potential that they were in closeproximity to the safe when it exploded."

Wills and other investigators have now contacted localhospitals to see if any patients have come in recently complaining of hearingloss or other burns and injuries, and so far that has produced no leads.

"We're hoping for any help from the public," he said. "Ifanybody has any information on either of the fires, that would be great."

Anyone with information about who committed these crimesshould contact the Jonesboro Fire Marshal's office at 870-932-2428, or they can call Jonesboro CrimeStoppers at870-935-STOP.

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