Ninth arson fire in Macoupin County

Sheriff forming task force to find arsonist(s)

Brian Kelly
March 07, 2020 - 9:48 am

CARLINVILLE, IL (KMOX)-The Macoupin County Sheriff says he'll probably be forming a task force in an effort to stop the string of arson fires that hit nine with Friday night's burning of an abandoned house northeast of Carlinville. "The public's getting very worried," says Sheriff Shawn Kahl, "we're going to regroup here and try to figure something out."

The fire that destroyed the old farmhouse at Shell and Nursery Roads, was set at about 5:45 pm.  "We'd been getting barns set on fire, most of them had hay in them. This particular one was an old abandoned house." 

He says a neighbor spotted a white pickup within a few minutes of the fire. He believes it's the same truck seen around four fires set Wednesday. It's a white ford with a chrome grill, bumper damage, loud exhaust and a wood plank in place of the tailgate. Kahl says some witnesses report seeing one occupant, others have seen two. 

"We thought we had a pattern as to when they were going to do it, but that all kind of changed Wednesday morning," says Kahl. The first four fires, he says, were on Sunday and Monday afternoon or early evening. Last Wednesday's were set during the morning. "We had four of them. One of the deputies located a fire at 6:45 am. From there, we just kept responding to other fires until about noon that day."  One volunteer firefighter was injured in one of Wednesday's fires. Kahl says he'll be forced to miss a week of work.

He says the fires have been set over about a 30 mile radius. "If you drive around our county, there's structures all over. Barns, houses that are abandoned all over this county so, as far as trying to figure out where their next move is and if they're in a general area, we don't really have a general area at this point. We're not really sure."

Friday's fire was very frustrating. "I had deputies out flooding that area last night, within a few minutes of the fire. We broadened our search, we kept going out further but were' just 10 to 15 minutes behind them every time we show up."

Kahl says he's going to spend the weekend working on the task force, which he says will include his investigators and the State Fire Marshal's office. He's also going to see if the districts that have been hit can spare any manpower who can volunteer some time. He hopes to meet with everyone Monday or Tuesday. 

In the meantime, he's asking people who see anything suspicious, including a white truck lurking around their property, to try to get a license plate number. You can call the Arson Hotline at 800-252-2947 or the Macoupin/Montgomery County Crime Stoppers at 800-352-1036.