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Investigators Looking for Arsonist Before Fires Become Deadly

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SPRING LAKE — Investigators in Cumberland County are looking for someone setting forest fires.

On Friday, the fires spread and destroyed a mobile home. No one was inside the home at the time, but the fires will not stop.

The fire chief believes one person is responsible for nine fires since October 1998.

This person is not just making life difficult for fire fighters. He or she is also wasting a lot of tax dollars each time the fire trucks roll, and is also endangering the lives of people who live near the forest where the fires have occurred.

"If it was just one little fire here or there, that doesn't add up as much as one fire over and over in the same spot in the same area," said Richard Steen of the Spring Lake Fire Department.

The flames lit the sky Friday night near the Riverside Mobile Home Park. This was the third time in 24 hours someone set the woods there on fire.

"I don't think he means any harm to the public, but fires can be uncontrollable sometimes," said Steen.

Eola Driffin is afraid that she and her children could get hurt. The latest fire quickly burned a path right to her doorstep.

"I mean, it's scary because you could be in the bed sleeping and not know," said Driffin. "It was a little fire, then the wind was blowing so hard that it just started spreading."

The fire spreading is a big concern to fire fighters.

"And I'm afraid we're either going to have some property damage or possibly some loss of life. And that's the biggest scare we have," said Steen.

"As far as costs, the costs really add up, not only in man power, but in fuel cost," said Steen. "We've had mutual aid departments come in -- the Department of Forestry bringing in their plows and stuff. The cost can become astronomical. People don't realize it."

The Cumberland County Arson Task Force and the N.C. Department of Forestry are helping in the investigation, and they have a few leads already.

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Todd Hauer, Reporter
Lynn French, Photographer
Kelly Gardner, Web Editor

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