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Fire officials suspect arson in Heights fire

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Firefighters believe someone set fire overnight to a Heights area duplex, which didn't have any electricity.

The damage to the corner of the duplex on Petty and Cohn doesn't look serious and on its own, it's not. But what it signals to Heights resident Elba Pagoaga is of great concern.

"It's in my neighborhood now," she said. "It used to be on the other side of the Heights. Now it's on my side of the Heights, so I'm concerned."

Houston firefighters were called to the residence just after 1:30am. The fire wasn't big and firefighters put it out quickly. No one was hurt and the part of the building isn't occupied. But the fire was no accident.

"There is power going to the building, but I don't believe this unit has any power going to it that I know of," said District Chief Ronald Kelley with the Houston Fire Department.

The Heights has seen a string of arson fires, dating back to last August. The one Thursday morning was unexpectedly close for Vicente Lopez, who lives just across his back fence.

"It does cause a concern," said Lopez. "People are starting fires on these vacant houses and the fire could spread."

The fire didn't even wake most people we talked to. It was small and firefighters caught it quickly. But residents wonder if they'll be as lucky next time.

"I've just gotta make sure that I've got my fire alarm batteries changed and keep my eyes open," said Lopez.

There were no arrests made at the scene Thursday morning. An HFD investigator came out to talk to a couple of news reporters who thought they saw someone repeatedly coming by the scene in the hours after the fire, but as to any other clues or breaks in these arson cases, investigators have remained tight-lipped.

If you have any information in Thursday's fire or any of the ones in the Heights, you're asked to call authorities.

This is just the latest in a string of fires in the Heights. There have been nearly two dozen since late last year. Police did make one arrest for those fires so far. They say 30-year-old David Joseph Prince set a fire at a vacant home on Herkimer and West 12th Street in mid-September of last year.

Several more fires were set after his arrest, totaling 22 suspicious cases in 2009.

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heights, local, elissa rivas
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