Official: ‘Some fires arson’

By Rick White

CNJ managing editor

A fourth fire has been added to the list of suspicious fires in Clovis since Saturday.

Lt. Rick Qualls, an investigator with the Clovis Fire Department, said a fire Wednesday afternoon at a home in the 900 block of Wallace Street was suspicious because the residence was unoccupied and there were no utilities connected to the building.

The Wallace Street fire was one of three the CFD responded to Wednesday.

Qualls said the cause of a fire early Wednesday morning that gutted a trailer home at the corner of Seventh and Oaks streets is undetermined while an incident involving an incendiary device thrown into a residence on Thornton Street on Wednesday night was unrelated to the string of suspicious fires.

Qualls said fires are classified four ways:

• Natural

• Accidental

• Incendiary (arson)

• Undetermined

“Some of the fires are arson,” said Qualls, although he said he would not identify which ones because of the ongoing investigation.Fires on Saturday at 409 N. Prince and 412 Walnut St. and Monday at 1104 E. Sixth St. are also being considered by officials as suspicious.

Qualls said he has forwarded reports and photos to Clovis police, who will determine if there are criminal charges.

Qualls said evidence has also been sent to state crime labs in Santa Fe and Las Cruces, but he doesn’t expect results until next week. He also said the state fire marshal’s office is collecting evidence.

Capt. Patrick Whitney said Clovis police are following leads but would not comment further, citing an ongoing investigation.

“There are several scenes and several pieces of evidence from different scenes,” Whitney wrote in an email.

“The evidence has to be analyzed to evaluate its importance. That takes time.”

According to Whitney, police are checking their database for people with prior arson charges, conducting crime scene investigations in conjunction with the fire department, and conducting neighborhood interviews for possible witnesses.

Police are also providing extra patrols in the affected neighborhood, but they still need the public’s help to have more eyes and ears on anything suspicious, Whitney said.

How to help

•  Crime Stoppers may offer up to $1,000 reward for information that leads to arrests in criminal cases. Call Crime Stoppers at 575-763-7000.