Copycats Suspected in Mansfield Arson Streak

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MANSFIELD, Ohio -- An arsonist has struck again in the small central Ohio city of Mansfield, burning two more homes to the ground.

On Oct. 14, a house at 412 Blust Ave. was destroyed, then on Oct. 15 another home at 59 S. Foster St. was engulfed in flames.

They are the latest in a string of suspicious fires that started June 13.

Since then, 36 homes and buildings and six cars have been burned.

“We’re really at kind of a loss right now,” said Mansfield Fire Chief John Harsch. “We’re following every lead we get but it’s just not coming together yet.”

Some of the fires are related by geography and some are related by the type of fire and how it was started.

Most appear to be the work of the same person, but Chief Harsch says it now appears there may be a copycat or copycats.

“We think we have some copycats just by the way they look.  The fires are different enough,” said Chief Harsch.

The Ohio State Fire Marshal is assisting in the investigation along with the Mansfield Police Department.

Chief Harsch says the police department's criminal analyst has been examining patterns and neighborhoods.

Usually arsonists are motivated by three things:  profit, revenge or excitement.

The chief says most of the homes were vacant and had multiple owners so there was no profit to gain.

And what’s most concerning is that the fires appear to be escalating from minor fires to fully engulfed working blazes.

People who live near the targeted homes are also very worried.

The Rev. Joby Odom said, “It was alarming for me to move here and experience that.”

 Everyone thinks that it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously harmed.

Although most of the structures were vacant, one person was rescued and suffered minor injuries and several fire fighters have also been hurt.

Chief Harsch said, “We need someone to see something to give us a call.”

There was one suspect taken into custody for questioning but he has not been charged and was released.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest.

“I think there has to now be some aggressive measures,” said the Rev. Odom. “Put video cameras up, put some more police patrols out, but we have to put an end to it.”