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Petersburg works to protect homeless from arsonist torching homes

Posted at 3:18 PM, Sep 03, 2018

PETERSBURG, Va. -- Four suspicious fires that burned vacant Petersburg homes are believed to be the work of an arsonist.

With no arrests and on-going investigations, an effort is being made to make sure no one gets inside the city's vacant buildings.

That includes members of the city's homeless population, who may be seeking refuge from the summer heat.

"We definitely need to concentrate on people being inside of abandoned structures though, because I'm really concerned with their health and safety," Petersburg Chief Fire Marshal Jim Reid said.

Reid is worried someone seeking shelter may be inside a home targeted by an arsonist.

"Somebody may not know that a homeless person is inside a vacant structure, so yea, that is absolutely a concern," Reid said. "We're working with our Code Compliance and working with our Police Department to get some of the unsecured properties, properly secured."

No one has been hurt, so far, in the Petersburg fires.

Fire officials hope putting red tags on vacant buildings that inform property owners they must secure their homes will help.

"Once a structure has been posted, then the occupant of that structure could be arrested for trespassing," Reid said.

They're also working with Dominion Energy city to cut electricity to the vacant homes.

The Fire Marshal's office asked anyone who witnessed someone entering a vacant home, or anyone who can help with the arson investigation, call Crime solvers at 804-861-1212 or the Fire Marshal’s Office at 804-733-2409.

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