Alabama Neighborhood On Edge After Series of Fires

Montgomery firefighters work the scene of a fire at 918 Grove St. in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Firefighters also responded to a call a block away at the same time in the 1000 block of Hutchinson Street. (Photo: Albert Cesare / Advertiser)
Montgomery firefighters work the scene of a fire at 918 Grove St. in Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday, June 30, 2015. Firefighters also responded to a call a block away at the same time in the 1000 block of Hutchinson Street.
(Photo: Albert Cesare / Advertiser)

Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there is a lot of smoke coming from a Centennial Hill neighborhood in Montgomery after two houses caught fire just around this week.

These are the fifth and sixth fires to occur in the past two months, all in this three-block radius, and both the neighborhood and Montgomery Fire Investigator R.C. Wood are suspecting arson.

Tuesday’s fires occurred within minutes of each other. All six houses were abandoned and either burglarized or stripped of copper, according to Wood.

“We’re suspecting set fires on most of these,” Wood said. “They’ve all been vacant structures.”

James Jackson stood on the porch of his house on the street he’s lived on for 47 years. A few houses down is another fire-ravaged house and abandoned homes all around his property now pose a threat. With his family and children around him and the smoke drifting down the street, James can only worry about what’s going to happen next.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” said James. “They’re burning houses where people are living next door to them. Suppose we’re asleep and our homes catch on fire, too?”

James has lived in the Centennial Hill neighborhood for his entire life, and for the first time he’s fearful.

“I’m scared for them,” James said, pointing to his nephews playing on the porch. “I hope they catch (who did it), and they get punished for it.”

Neighborhood resident Joshua Jackson, unrelated to James Jackson, said one witness standing with him after the one of the Tuesday fires described seeing a man dressed in black exiting the house just before a “fireball” erupted from the side window.

The witness could not be found for details, but Joshua said he was certain that this fire was not an accident. Neighbors used the house to sell drugs and burglars have broken in twice in the past three to four months, according to Joshua, who has been helping his grandmother take care of the house for the past five months.

“It’s sad,” Joshua said. “Neighbors had guys selling drugs over there. Guys would be standing on the porch. Somebody stole a microwave and a few things. It’s just sad.”

There are no suspects or clear motives for the fires yet.

SOURCE: Andrew J. Yawn and Rebecca Burylo
Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser

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