As word gets around of a possible arsonist in their midst, people in the City of Oneida are becoming more alarmed. Jennifer Slover told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, "I don't know how many people's houses are going to be next. I hope mine isn't."
On Friday night, a home at 429 Seneca Street went up in flames. No one was home at the time. The house is only a few doors away from a garage at 421 Seneca Street that was destroyed on May 10th. Authorities suspect those fires may be connected to another house fire on March 24th on Washington Avenue only three blocks away. Police and fire investigators say the signs point to a potential arsonist. Oneida Police Chief David Meeker warned, "This is something where someone could get seriously hurt. We want to stop it before it goes any further."
The first sign that there could be an arsonist in that part of Oneida happened last fall when someone started setting fire to piles of leaves. Those fires occurred just yards away from the other fires. Fire Chief Don Hudson is afraid of a worsening trend. "This individual or individuals are getting bolder in their actions. Right now, we're fearful somebody is going to get hurt or possibly killed."
Madison Mutual Insurance of Chittenango is offering a $10,000 reward for information that could lead to the capture and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the string of fires. According to CEO Timothy Burback, "We do this when we have a claim that is suspicious... the authorities come to us and say it is incendiary and we work with them to try to solve it."
Anyone with information about the string of suspicious fires in Oneida is urged to call the City Police Department at 363-2323.
An insurance company in Madison County is planning to offer a large reward after multiple suspicious fires have sparked up in Oneida over the past two months.
A spokesperson for the Madison Mutual Insurance Company of Chittenango tells CNY Central that the company will be offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of a person or persons responsible for setting a fire on Seneca Street in the City of Oneida.
On May 10, a garage caught on fire at 421 Seneca Street. Local officials feel that fire could be linked to a separate house fire at 429 Seneca Street on May 21. Both fires have been determined to be ~suspicious TM. Investigators are also reviewing other recent fires that are considered suspicious or outright arson cases, including one on March 24 on Washington Avenue, also in Oneida.
Oneida Fire Chief Don Hudson tells CNY Central Investigators are connecting a number of incidents in an attempt to find out who may be responsible. He says that last fall there were three incidents in which someone set fire to piles of leaves within a 200 yard radius in the same neighborhood as the Seneca Street garage and house fires. Because of that, Hudson fears the suspected arsonist could be getting bolder.
According to Madison Mutual vice president Heidi Barron, the company has had success with the reward program in the past. One incident that received the most attention, including some national press, involved an arson at the Gobind Sadan temple in Central Square. Gobind Saban, a Sikh shrine, was torched shortly after September 11, 2001 by three teenagers who reportedly thought the name sounded like Go Bin Laden.
Barron says her company was able to get tips that led to an arrest because of the reward for information that was offered. She added We work closely with police and fire investigators with this program.
Barron says Madison Mutual will soon place an advertisement in the Oneida Daily Dispatch officially announcing the reward.
Anyone with information about the fires in Oneida is asked to call the Oneida City Police Department at 363-2323.
Read more on this story from the Oneida Daily Dispatch.