Houston's historic Heights neighborhood is under siege. In just two months, 12 suspicious fires at local residences have taken place, all within a couple of blocks of each other.
The latest incident occurred in the dark hours of the morning on October 2. Around 2 a.m., firefighters responded a fire at 1030 ½ Ashland. One resident, Eliud Limon, was sleeping in the garage apartment when he woke up to a bang outside the apartment. He told the Houston Chronicle that he went outside and saw smoke coming from the downstairs garage. He woke up the other two individuals who were staying at the apartment. No one was injured in the incident.
Limon and company were already planning on moving out, and with good reason. The garage apartment sat on an otherwise empty lot. The lot was the scene of a series of fires that burned down a duplex that once stood there. The first time the duplex on 1030 Ashland caught on fire was August 8. Throughout the following days, the duplex would be victimized a couple of more times.
One neighbor who didn't want his name used told Hair Balls how it began to look a little more suspicious after each incident.
"The first time, you think 'Hey, it's a fire, sometimes fires happen,'" he said. "The second time, it looked a little bit more suspicious, but hey, maybe smoldering rubble is trapped underneath stuff; they could get an air pocket and light up. The third time...you know."
The house next to the duplex also had its garage burned. Down the street on 612 9th Street, the garage apartment there also caught on fire. There were also cases of suspicious fires on 11th Street and 12th Street.
Armando Alonso, a local contractor working on residences along Ashland, noticed a pattern that was developing in the cases. "The only thing I know, is that [the fires] were occurring every five days," Alonso said. "Then, the fires slowed to about one every 13 days. The fires were all nearby, but they all fell within that time frame. Only the houses that appear old are being targeted."
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With the exception of the latest incident, all the other fires were in vacant buildings. The latest incident was the first one where people were still living in the residence.
The situation has neighbors in the Heights community on edge. Matt McKinney, a Heights resident for five years, told Hair Balls that all sorts of rumors have been spread about the perp(s).
One thing's for certain, McKinney has noticed an increased presence of Houston Police. "They've had patrol cars parked on the alleyway next door," he said. "The neighborhood seems very concerned. I don't know, I'd like for it to stop."
Because the cases are still under investigation, HFD has not released any information involving them. Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.