When it comes to fires in the city of Fresno, Investigator Gerry Rodriguez has a job to do.
“My job is to find out how it started,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez is part of the Fresno City Fire Department’s Arson Investigation Unit; a team that sees little downtime, especially here in the Valley.
“As you know, we’re 5th in the nation in the number of arson fires. So we have a significant problem. I’d say about half of our fires are arson related,” Fire Marshal Kerri Donis said.
Chief of Investigations Don MacAlpine says statistically juveniles make up the majority when it comes to those involved with fires, whether it’s because curiosity or less-than-smart choices.
But the recent rash of arsons goes way beyond childhood mischief.
“When it comes to downright arson, they’re being more than curious, they’re being downright malicious, they’re being willful,” MacAlpine said.
What they’re also being are criminals.
“We don’t take that lightly. We’re not quick to want to put a juvenile into custody. But we will and we do when appropriate,” MacAlpine said.
Like the case this week when police arrested a child believed to be responsible for six arsons.
And fire officials say kids make up a significant portion of their caseload right now; intentional and not.
“School’s out. For some reason, kids, juveniles are fascinated with fire. You’d be surprised how many we get that are juveniles and just out of curiosity,” Rodriguez said.
“I’ve had many people arrested for homicide, great bodily injury, major fire damage and their statements are, I never intended for it to do that. I just wanted to make a statement,” MacAlpine said.
It’s a statement fire officials want to prevent and they say parents have the power to do it by talking to their kids if they notice an unsettling sudden interest in fire.
“Certainly don’t want kids to continue down that course and then all of the sudden the house is now on the ground because they wish they would have said something earlier,” Donis said,
For Gerry Rodriguez and the rest of Fresno City’s Arson Team, as long as fires are set, the workload never ends.
“You have to document everything you did on scene.”
It’s a tedious task both in and out of the office.
Something a lot people might not realize is this rash of arsons can also affect them as homeowners or business owners.
The reason being, if you have a certain number of fires and/ or arson’s in your area, your insurance is likely to go up.
The Fresno Fire Department also has a Juvenile Fire Education Program where kids can learn early on about the dangers of fire.
Fire officials say they’re also continuing to look for the person or persons responsible for a rash of arson’s at Bullard High School over the last few months.
Anyone with information is asked to call the investigations unit at 621-4444.