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Arson investigations need community eyes

At least 10 fires have been intentionally set in the area that reaches north from the Motel 6 at 201 Thornton Drive, includes Valentine Avenue and Hunter Street, and continues to the 1600 block of East Broad Avenue. Arson investigators are asking the community to report any suspicious activity in the area to call the authorities.

At least 10 fires have been intentionally set in the area that reaches north from the Motel 6 at 201 Thornton Drive, includes Valentine Avenue and Hunter Street, and continues to the 1600 block of East Broad Avenue. Arson investigators are asking the community to report any suspicious activity in the area to call the authorities.

ALBANY — At least 10 intentionally set fires have caused more than $200,000 in damages to unoccupied homes and businesses in a half-mile area of East Albany in the last three years, said Sam Harris, Albany Fire Department arson investigator.

Harris and investigators from the Albany Police Department want residents in the area to help them stop the fires and catch the arsonists.

“We need to find these people because they will continue to set fires,” Harris said. “We are trying hard to solve these cases and we need their (the public’s) help.”

So far, there have been no injuries from the fires, but there have been close calls, Harris said. Most of the buildings have been unoccupied, but some had been occupied minutes before a fire took the building.

Harris said that it was incorrect to assume that because a building is described unoccupied, it is a dilapidated shell or abandoned. Arsonists have put the flames to a rental building where the tenants had moved out a few days earlier.

“What concerns us is that we are afraid that someone could get injured,” Harris said. “Not only do we have the property loss that concerns us, but people could be injured.”

The community could serve as the eyes and ears of the arson investigators, said Harris and Phyllis Banks, Albany Police Department spokeswoman. All it takes is paying attention and making a phone call, anonymously if necessary, they said.

“The smallest details can help us break these cases,” Banks said. “A small detail could lead us to the arsonists.”

In an emergency, call 911. To call with information, use the police non-emergency number (229) 431-2132 or the Crime Stoppers’ line at (229) 436-TIPS (8477). The Spanish language APD-COP Tip Line is (229) 434-2677.

Crime Stoppers is an anonymous tipline. People with information that leads to action could become eligible for cash rewards.