City Urges ‘Vigilante Arsonist’ to Stop Setting Fires

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CANTON, Ohio -- A 'vigilante arsonist' is on the loose in Canton, torching abandoned homes, fire officials said.

"We've had six arson fires in the last five days and we believe it's out of control," Canton Fire Chief Steve Rich said.

Rich believes these fires were started by people he is calling 'vigilante arsonists.'

He believes the arsonist does not want the vacant homes in the neighborhood, or the problems they bring with them,

"Stop it. It's not helping the problem it's creating more problems," Rich said.

The fire chief thinks the arsonist used an accelerant, like gasoline, to start the fires.
Rich said it is unlikely that a homeless person would set fire to a place he or she is using for shelter.

"Maybe people are thinking to themselves, 'I can help the problem out, all the vacant houses, by setting them on fire. They will either burn all the way down or they will have to get demolished and that will take care of the problem," Rich said.

Rich said the arson spree started after a vacant home on Wells Ave. in southwest Canton was accidentally set on fire Wednesday by one of the homeless people inside it.

The next day, three more vacant homes near it were set on fire and destroyed.

Two more homes have been torched since then, he said.

Chris Morgan says he is one of the homeless people who was in the Wells Ave. home when the arsonist struck the homes next door.

"I was just here chilling one day and I heard a bunch of snap, crackle and pop and these two houses back here were on blazing fire," Morgan said.

Morgan knows the arsonist could strike a home while he is sleeping inside.

"It's scary, but what are you going to do? The Lord calls, the Lord calls," Morgan said.

The fire chief said the arsonist is also putting other people's lives at risk; the fires could spread to neighbors' homes, firefighters can get hurt or killed fighting the fires, and people who have real emergencies while crews are battling the arson will have to wait for help, and that could cost them their life.

"Stop it. Don't set any more fires. It’s not helping the matter," Rich said.

Rich said there is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the arsonist.

Anyone with information can call (330) 489-3411.

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