Cleveland man arrested after 30 suspicious fires; residents reli - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Cleveland man arrested after 30 suspicious fires; residents relieved

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CLEVELAND, TN (WRCB) -

People who live in one Cleveland neighborhood have been on guard for eight months. Residents have feared the worst where someone set more than 30 fires. 

But now there's a break in the case. Arson investigators believe they have their man, and credit some watchful neighbors for catching the suspect in the act.

"It's been pretty bad," said resident Kimberly Marshall. "We'll go three or four days with nothing, then all of a sudden, two or three fires in a night."

Neighbors in Cleveland's Blythe-Oldfield neighborhood call him "the fire bug."

"We'll hear and see the police coming from everywhere, then the fire engines riding through," Marshall described ."We kind of figured it was the fire bug."

Over the past 8 months, firefighters have been called to more than 30 suspicious fires in this one neighborhood.

"We're talking about three or four streets in a certain part of Cleveland," said Cleveland Fire Marshal Ben Atchley.

Neighbors have reported coming outside to find campaign signs on fire, trash burning in ditches, or vacant homes going up in flames.

"They're very sporadic," said Atchley. "There's not a lot of pattern to them. It was just, really, a crime of opportunity."

Even though most of the fires didn't cause severe damage, neighbors like Marshall  constantly wondered if she'd become the next victim.

"When are they gonna set a fire that's gonna hit my house? Or my car? Or my neighbor's house? Or my neighbor's car?" she asked. "Or when is this guy gonna move on to something bigger, and not be satisfied with small fires? That's the worry it puts on people."

Last week, two neighbors told police they saw a man lighting a sheet on fire in a ditch. Larry Evans, 59, was charged with reckless burning, and taken to jail.

"There has not been a house burnt in the last week and a half," added resident Tim Taylor.

Marshall said she rests easier, hoping the neighborhood's "fire bug" is behind bars.

"The police cannot watch everything, all the time," she said. "But as members of the community, we can."

Firefighters tell us no fires have been reported in the neighborhood since Evans' arrest. He's being held in the Bradley County Jail and is due in court next month. 

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