String of Fires Being Investigated as Arson

GRUBBS, AR (KAIT) -- A string of fires in Jackson County early on Wednesday morning are being investigated as arson.

The first of four fires started around 1:30 a.m.  Two tractor trailer trucks on the Riceland parking lot received a heavy amount of fire damage.  A few blocks over from the first fire a house on Gum Street burned to the ground.  Outside the city limits on County Road 47 at least two farms were hit, with multiple pieces of equipment destroyed.

Farmer Kenny Clark is one of the victims who says he lost a tractor, a truck and his shed in the fires.

"We've lost about $70,000," said Clark.

"There's a lot of damage, a lot of property loss," said Jackson County Sheriff David Lucas.

Sheriff Lucas said there could be more than $100,000 in damage from the fires.

"It's too early in the game to speculate, but it's always better to investigate it as a higher crime than what it may prove not to be.  We are treating it as arson at this point," said Lucas.

"I felt like it had to be arson because the fires were in two different locations and they weren't joining," said Clark.

Since the fires happened in the same general area, all within a few hours of each other the sheriff's department is treating them as if they're connected.  However, Lucas said while they're still grouping it with the others, it is questionable if the fire at the house on Gum Street is connected.

"At this point, based on some of the things we saw at the fire scene, we're leaning towards it not being connected to the other three fires," said Lucas.

Lucas told Region 8 News that some of the items found at the scene of the house fire, including a butane tank in the center of the house, make the investigators think that it might not be part of the other three fires.  Neighbors reported to the sheriff's department that they heard what sounded like an explosion and reported seeing some individuals jump into an orange car and leave the scene. 

Clark said his loss could have been much worse.  Now he's just trying to figure out what to do next.

"I had to go get a semi to replace the one that I lost and I need to get a load of rice out that's in a grain buggy, so that's set us back some," said Clark.

There are persons of interest in this case but no one has been arrested.  For now, this community is asking why, especially during a time of year when the victims need to be using their destroyed farm equipment to finish getting their crops out of the ground.

"I felt like whoever would do it is a very mean person," said Clark.

Sheriff Lucas said there have been a few fires in the last few weeks in Jackson County including one in the Grubbs area that are still under investigation.  It's unclear if any of those fires are connected to the fires from Wednesday morning.

If you have any information about these fires, you are encouraged to contact the Jackson County Sheriff's Department at 870-523-5842.