FREEBURG, Il. (KMOV) -- Investigators are looking for arsonists believed to have set six fires in the Metro East. During the past 16 days, more than $1 million in heavy equipment, barns and sheds have been destroyed.
The fires were all in and around Freeburg, Illinois, and investigators with the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, Freeburg Police Department and the Illinois State Fire Marshals Office are working together to stop the fire starter before he or she can ignite another.
Victims of the arson tell me it appears the fire-starter looks for something inside the sheds and barns to ignite, usually something that might hold gasoline. investigators say the arsonist(s) started April 23 and has accelerated attacks ever since.
Clad in leather work gloves, we found Don Weber trying to salvage what he could of his aluminum shed. It was destroyed on May 1. Weber stored his tractor inside but luckily had taken it out to plant corn the day before the fire was set. The shed doubled as a workshop for his son's concrete business.
"My son worked hard in his concrete business and lost everything," Weber said. "It just makes me sad to think that there are people that could do that."
During the past 16 days six separate arson fires have claimed more than $1 million in damage to barns and sheds around Freeburg. Township workers say at least half-a-million dollars went up in flames when power tools, a dump truck and a backhoe were destroyed by fire inside the Township building on Monday. While it was burning, someone set fire to a pontoon boat. Investigators are concerned that the fire-starter is getting bolder. A blaze Wednesday night was the biggest so far and closest to other homes.
"It's a safety issue for the firemen and people who live out in these areas," St. Clair County Sheriff's Sgt. Michael Hundelt said. "A lot of these properties are close to houses, so if the wind would blow right or something of that nature, they could catch houses on fire."
The owners of the Optimist Rodeo lost two cars and a massive barn, but thankfully had moved their long-horn cattle out just days before the blaze began. Investigators aren't sure if the fires are the work of one or many and need your help.
"Keep an extra eye out for anybody [you] may think is susicious, any type of suspicious vehicles that might be out driving in the area," Sgt. Hundelt said.
Here’s a list of all six fires under investigation:
· 04-23-12 - Metal shed - 6768 Press Road, Freeburg (Smithton Fire Dist.)
· 05-01-12 - Metal Shed - 4667 Carr Road, Freeburg
· 05-07-12 - Freeburg Township Building, 718 Hill Mine Road, Freeburg
· 05-07-12 - Shed - 2000 block of Rt. 15 (west of Freeburg) -Freeburg PD
· 05-07-12 - Shed - 8400 River King Road (off Peabody Road, back area burned out with no damage)
· 05-09-12 - Barn - 3017 Turkey Hill Ln. Freeburg
If you see something that catches your eye, call 911. If you have tips about the ongoing arson investigation, call Investigator Brian Cregger at (618) 825-5712 or Investigator Mike Schutzenhofer at (618) 539-3132. Crimestoppers is also offering a $1,000 reward for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible. The number for Crimestoppers is 1-866-371-TIPS (8477).