Multiple arsons in Peoria create havoc

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 6:26 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25News Now) - Peoria firefighters have responded to six arsons in the last 30 days, but those fires that were intentional have impacted more than just those putting out the flames.

Peoria fire chief Shawn Sollberger said he is busy trying to find the answer, in an interview with 25 News Thursday.

“Comparative data is being compiled right now. Just by pure gut instinct, this feels a little outside of the norm,” said the chief. “We deal with arson fires on a regular basis, intentionally-set fires on a regular basis, but this feels higher than normal.”

The City of Peoria is responsible for tearing down homes destroyed by arsonists. While city community development director Joe Dulin says they don’t track arson demolitions, it still costs the city money. Money that’s already set aside for these purposes.

“At the end of the day when an arson does occur, if it’s a dangerous structure, the city council believes in keeping our neighborhoods safe,” said Joe Dulin. “This is a big safety priority for them. Even if we had to go back to the council to find additional funds to take these down, we would.”

Dulin also said fires like these most often happen in the winter when the homeless are looking to stay warm. Chief Sollberger also says the time spent investigating these fires just adds to the arson investigators’ workload.

“Anytime you’re dealing with an arson case, or really just any fire investigation in itself but then you add that crime element to it, it pulls our arson investigators who have other duties and responsibilities within the fire protection bureau,” said Sollberger. “They’re unable to do those things, so it’s hard. Inspections don’t get performed and investigations don’t get performed because they have to spend so much time and attention in these areas.”

Dulin encourages neighborhood residents to report vacant houses to their hotline: 494-CARE. He claimed it could lower the amounts of arsons in the city.