A short sigh of relief in the Metro East: police have arrested a man who they claim has been starting fires in homes, terrorizing residents in Cahokia.
There were three fires Saturday: one burned a car, two others lit up vacant houses. Those houses in the 100 block of Amelia Drive also caused damage to neighboring homes.
Arson has been a major issue for the all-volunteer, Camp Jackson Fire Department. Its slim resources are shrinking with each blaze fire fighters battle. There have been 10 just in the past month that are believed to have been intentionally set in one neighborhood.
It puts lives in danger. Even with this latest arrest, neighbors fear that it's not the end of the suspicious fires in Parkfield Terrace. They tell me that they believe some of the fires might be set by people looking for revenge over drug deals and other crimes.
This morning's fire started in a car port between two houses. They sit right across the street from a home gutted by fire just last week -- the same time another house went up in flames a couple of blocks away. But Saturday morning's blazes began with a car fire in a vehicle belonging to a woman who says she's become a victim in the crossfire.
"I looked out the window and I saw a fire here in part of my car, and I think they wanted to burn my house too," the victim said.
"Do you have any reason to believe that somebody would be targeting you?" I asked her.
"No, no I don't talk to anybody around here," she said.
"Does this make you nervous?" I asked.
" Yes it does," she said. "I thought they would burn me."
"You know, I don't know if it's kids or if it's people mad at each other, I really don't know," Camp Jackson Fire Chief Chris Davis said.
"But you just want them to stop," I said.
"Yeah," Chief Davis said. "I'm real concerned about the safety of the fire fighters."
That goes for innocent neighbors as well.
Parkfield Terrace is certainly no stranger to crime. It's the same neighborhood police swept in April and made several arrests.
On a related note, the Camp Jackson fire department is quickly burning through its small budget. Chief Davis spends his own money buying ice and Gatorade for his crews to help keep them hydrated in this heat wave. He's hoping someone can donate an ice maker to the department. If you can help, call the fire fighters at (618) 332-2196. Leave a message if no one answers. After all, they are a volunteer department.