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By Charlotte Smith

Officials are hoping 2020 will be better than 2019 when there were several suspicious fires reported in the Dublin area. The first fire causing concern happened in February and was followed by several more in the months following. The latest one happened early Thanksgiving morning.

Kenneth Clark, Bladen County Fire Marshal confirmed these fires are considered arson or suspicious and there are persons of interest identified in the cases, however, no arrests have been made at this time.

The first suspicious fire occurred when an unoccupied home on NC 410 near West Bladen High School burned on Tuesday, February 5th, and a second suspicious fire claimed a mobile home on Friday morning of the same week. Both homes were empty and had no insurance at the time of the fires.

Another fire took out a mobile home in March. More fires have continued to pop up in the same vicinity.

Clark said, “The suspicious fires are occurring in a section of roadway along NC 41 West near Bladen Community College.” He added, “Investigators are working diligently to gather as much evidence as possible and they do have persons of interest identified,” he said.According to the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association, there are more than 16,000 intentionally set fires in homes every year, resulting in an estimated 300 deaths, 700 injuries and $500 million in direct property damage. The average dollar loss for an intentionally set fire in a residential building is $21,320.

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While the suspicious fires in Dublin have involved unoccupied dwellings, officials say it is important to guard against arson. Arson destroys more than buildings. Arson can devastate a community resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.

Following are some tips to reduce the risk of arson according to FEMA  (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

  1. Install lights that illuminate all sides of your property.
  2. Clear obstructions and move any debris from homes and building which may block the view of the property from the street.
  3. Install fire alarms and sprinklers. The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent, according to FEMA.
  4. Clean up. Secure abandoned and vacant homes, which are potential arson targets. This may include adding additional locks or boarding up broken windows or other openings with plywood.
  5. Remove abandoned vehicles. Most car fires are started to cover up other criminal activity or simply as an act of vandalism.
  6. Talk to other property owners in the area. Ask neighbors to assist in looking out for strange activity in the area. Form a neighborhood watch.

Clark agreed with the tips to help Bladen County property owners. He said, “Property owners need to pay attention to unoccupied dwellings and check on property.”

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