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Cleveland Fire Department takes steps to improve arson investigations

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 19:02:20-05

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Fire Department is taking steps to better protect your neighborhood while possibly saving you money, improving how it responds to suspicious fires.

"It's very unusual for somebody to have more than one fire in their life," said Chief Chris Posante, Cleveland Fire Investigation Unit.

However, in Cleveland, serial arsonists are keeping the city’s recently revamped investigation unit busy.

In 2019, the department investigated 349 fires.

"For the city of Cleveland, arson's a problem. Some of these people we've identified had four and five fires," Posante said.

One of the biggest factors fanning those flames is insurance fraud.

"It's an arson for profit scheme," Posante said.

In their ongoing effort to crack down on those criminals, the firefighters—turned police officers—are adding new equipment to better execute their investigations.

"We got body cams from the Cleveland police side which will help when we do interviews. We have tasers now which we didn't before, so when you go into some of these vacant houses you don't have to go to deadly force right away, you can use your secondary weapons," said Lt. Donald Taylor, Cleveland Fire Investigation Unit.

Also among the big changes, the Original Origin of Cause Investigation Unit has been moved under the same roof to pass along information a lot quicker.

"When it was in a different location it was a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, the paperwork took an hour to get down here," Posante said.

Lt. Taylor told News 5 that being able to put the pieces of an arson puzzle together a little better is a benefit for all Clevelanders.

"If we have intentionally set fires, we had one the other day, one single house caught fire but it spread to two adjacent houses so now you have three houses badly burnt in your neighborhood," Taylor said.

Getting repeat offenders behind bars, also expected to stabilize and possibly even lower insurance rates for city residents.

"We're putting a case together against those individuals now," Posante said.