By Emily Crowe
CNJ STAFF WRITER
The Clovis Fire Department is investigating the cause of a fire that engulfed a storage facility Saturday night, as well as a residential fire Monday night just blocks away.
According to Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney, the two fires, as well as a third that occurred Saturday night, are likely connected and could be deemed arson.
“We believe they’re linked because of the vicinity and the timeframe,” he said.
CFD Lt. Rick Qualls, who works with the fire marshal, said Monday’s fire and two on Saturday at Prince and Fourth streets and Sycamore and Fourth streets were suspicious because the buildings involved did not have utilities.
Whitney said the police department will take over the investigation once the fire department has completed collecting evidence and analyzing its findings.
Investigators are currently looking into surveillance video from stores in the area that could show suspects purchasing items used as fire accelerants, Whitney said.
Evidence collected from the fire scenes, such as possible use of accelerants or other clues that the fires were not caused by an accident or equipment malfunction, will help police determine the likelihood of arson.
“Before we can get into the issue as to whether or not it’s arson,” Whitney said, “we need the fire marshal’s statement that it had to be caused by a person.”
Three fires were reported within 90 minutes of each other Saturday night.
The first blaze, reported at 6:30 p.m., was in a garage at Fourth and Prince streets. Shortly after firefighters extinguished that fire, they were called to the fire at Fourth and Sycamore.
A third fire, located at a boxcar on County Road F northwest of Clovis, was reported around 8 p.m., but fire officials believe it is unrelated to the others reported.
A fire Monday evening damaged a shed and another outbuilding at Sixth and Maple streets, according to Battalion Chief Mike Leatherwood.
Police have increased patrol presence in that area, according to Whitney.
Whitney also stressed the importance of citizens paying attention to their surroundings and reporting any suspicious activity to police.
“We need help from the public because we need the most eyes out there so we can respond to it and try to prevent any more fires,” he said.