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Arson Investigations

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 6:37pm

Two Baton Rouge homes caught fire last night. Investigators believe they were the targets of arson. Our Emily Turner is tracking this story. They say both homes were vacant, easy targets for arsonists.

Just before midnight, Monday night, flames ripped through the back of this house on Swarts Street. The porch and kitchen were reduced to ashes before firefighters were able to put the fire out. Luckily, no one lived there and no one was hurt. A few hours later, another vacant home caught fire, this one on Stearns Street. Flames engulfed the rear bedroom and kitchen.

Barry Mounce from the Baton Rouge Fire Department says someone set both houses on fire, but right now investigators don’t believe the two are connected. “We see these types of fires to vacant houses most commonly because they are an easy crime, a crime of opportunity. Mounce says about a hundred vacant homes are set on fire every year in Baton Rouge and only about a fifth of those cases ever get solved. He says it’s easy for investigators to determine whether or not a fire was the work of an arsonist. “Many people think the fire destroys the evidence where in fact the fire itself is the evidence.”

The hard part is tracking that person down. “A lot of times you see arson; it’s going to be tucked away where people can’t see the crime being occurred so you see it in the rear of the houses and behind bushes.” Mounce says in cases like these, investigators rely on neighbors for information that’ll help them catch the people responsible.

Mounce also says keeping vacant homes boarded up and well lit could cut down on arson fires.