A Suspicious Fire is Not Always a Case of Arson

Though a dozen fires in and around Cape Girardeau in the past half year  have been labeled as “arsons” on the city police department’s website, it’s doubtful those cases will result in criminal convictions, officials say. Officials say proving arson includes intent to do harm, and few suspicious fires lead investigators to discover evidence of harmful intent. Suspicious fires may well be accidental, like those started when trespassers let a heating fire or candle used for illumination get out of control. Officials say the past year saw 52 structure fires in the city. He estimated in a given year 5% to 10% of fires in the city may be suspicious. In the past 13 months, the city has seen three high-profile fires with suspicious origins. The former Broadway Theatre sustained heavy damage in a March 31 blaze. Authorities have not announced a cause for the fire. On April 18, a fire destroyed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Cape Rock Drive. In this case, authorities quickly apprehended a suspect who had allegedly made previous threatening statements about burning down the church. Just over a year ago,   a fire at Cape Girardeau’s Islamic Center resulted in the arrest of a man who had previously set fire to it This case was tabbed as a hate crime. Other fires that have suspicious beginnings in Cape Girardeau  to being intentionally set, though authorities have released few details about such evidence as the investigations are ongoing. A spokesman for Cape Girardeau Police Department said detectives are working those cases. Cape Girardeau Fire Department has half-dozen investigators, officials say. They also say the department readily accesses resources through the state fire marshal, local law enforcement agencies and federal agencies, such as the FBI when a suspicious fire might fall into a category of hate crime.

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