More than a dozen fires have burned at nearly 20 properties since Saturday, and Camden County police are seeking any information to help identify the parties responsible.
By Matt Skoufalos
The fireworks won’t start until dusk tonight, but this Fourth of July weekend, Camden City already has been lit up by 13 separate incidents that have injured firefighters, damaged property, and led authorities to form an arson task force to investigate.
“I’ve been here 23 years, and I don’t recollect anything like [it],” said Camden County Police Captain Greg Carlin.
After responding to four suspicious fires at seven unoccupied properties on Saturday, Carlin said police were “on a heightened watch” going into Sunday. Then, a few minutes after noon, a woman outside a home in the 500 block of Division Street heard a bang and discovered her building was on fire, he said. The Red Cross arrived to help three family members who were displaced by that event, Carlin said.
On Sunday, emergency vehicles responded to eight more suspicious fire events, all in abandoned buildings throughout the city. The last fire was set to a vehicle next to two vacant properties in the 600 block of South Broadway.
In total, police are tracking 13 events of apparent arson, and firefighters spent 12 hours in the past two days extinguishing the flames. Numerous neighboring fire companies were pressed into service to assist. No residents were harmed in any of the incidents, but three firefighters suffered minor injuries for which they were treated, Carlin said.
The captain said that investigators have formed an impromptu interagency task force comprising members of the Camden County Police Department, Prosecutor’s Office, and Fire Marshal. Little is known about the causes or motives behind the incidents, and police have no suspects nor witnesses to the crimes.
“There’s not a smoking gun or a gas can left at the scene,” Carlin said. “There’s a lot of theories; a lot of things that could be happening here. It looks like they’re secreting themselves in an alley and coming in the rear of these vacant properties and lighting them somehow in the vacant dwellings.”
Camden County Police Lieutenant Linda Alicea said the department is asking citizens to report any information that might help detectives discover who’s behind the incidents.
“We need all the help we can get from the public right now to help identify this person,” she said. “Residents in those areas might not think anything was suspicious, but nothing minor should be left unsaid.”
Anyone with information is asked to call the county police 24-hour tip line at 856-757-7042.
View Map of Fire Activity in Camden City July 2-3 2016 in a full screen map
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