Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Michaela Rutledge and Sydney Edwards
Mattoon police are preparing to release details of at least 16 arson fires that have occurred in the downtown area during the last 12 months.
The fires originated in dumpsters but spilled over into property, said Deputy Chief Jason Taylor in a June 20 interview.
If the arsons continue, the fires might result in public endangerment, according to Taylor. He said that if the arsons continue, the fires may spread to an occupied building.
Taylor believes that the financial damages have exceeded $30,000. While the fires started in dumpsters, police and fire crews have responded to at least one building fire and one vehicle fire. The vehicle was owned by local car dealership K.C. Summers.
“The vehicle was fully destroyed and the building had extensive damage,” Taylor said.
All of the fires have occurred during the late night and early morning hours, however, Taylor declined to comment on whether or not there was a pattern to the arsons.
No arrests have been made, although multiple people have been questioned about the fires.
Each count of this class one felony can result in 4-15 years in prison, and additional jail time may result for two counts of destruction of property.
If anybody has information on these crimes, please call the police department at (217) 235-5451.