JACKSON COUNTY, Ind. (WDRB) – The International Association of Arson Investigators is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspected arsonist responsible for five suspicious fires in northern Jackson County.

All five fires have been in Hamilton Township, which is covered by the Hamilton Township Volunteer Fire Department. The most recent suspicious fire was set Saturday night to a vacant house off North County Road 300 East.

On Monday, Chief Donald Schnitker met with the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office to discuss the growing list of suspicious fires. The investigator agreed there is an arson problem in the area and decided to coordinate a $5,000 reward to prompt information.

“If you know something, say something,” Schnitker said. “We have an arson problem in the area.”

Four of the five arsons are relatively close together in location. Two were even set four hours apart. While the department suspects all five fires are connected and set by someone on purpose, investigators do not believe they are tied to any sort of insurance fraud.

Here is a chronological list of the suspicious fires:

  • Camper fire, July 1, 2017, 59 East County Road 1050 North
  • Barn fire, Oct. 5, 2017, 512 East County Road 1050 North
  • House fire, May 5, 2018, 10942 North County Road 25 East
  • House fire, May 6, 2018, 10636 North County Road 25 East
  • House fire, June 2, 2018, 8305 North County Road 300 East

Schnitker said all the properties were vacant except for one home, but it was not occupied at the time of the fire. All properties were total losses, and all of the fires happened after 11 p.m. in rural areas.

“And all of the buildings except one did not have any utilities to them," Schnitker said. "No electric, no water, no gas."

The volunteer department is made up of 23 firefighters and makes around 100 runs a year. However, Schnitker expects they will top 130 this year. He guessed half their calls are medical, 30 percent are fires, and 20 percent are water rescues. He said the extra suspicious fires this year are an added risk and expense.

“It’s costing us more in fuel,” Schnitker said. “We pay insurance based on the number of runs. So those costs are increasing for the department now.”

Schnitker said it’s lucky no one has been hurt. So his message to the arsonist before he hits again, “Just stop.”

The department reassured the community they haven’t given up investigating these suspicious fires. But they need everyone’s help to track down whoever is responsible.

“It’s kind of a like the Homeland Security thing," Schnitker said. "If you see something, say something. But this is if you know something, say something."

And Schnitker said suggests being extra cautious and aware on your property.

“Keep your eyes and ears open,” he said. “And if you have an abandoned house on your property, we’ve been asking people to put up like a trail cam to keep an eye on your property and see if anything is going on.”

The suspicious fires are being investigation by the Indiana IAAI along with the Indiana State Fire Marshal.

If you have information to report, call 1-800-382-4628 or 317-504-7148. You do not need to give your name.

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