USA — With eleven investigations being conducted in the area, it’s evident arson is on the rise in Comanche County, and seven of them are in Lawton. The city averages about 60 arsons per year, and this year Lawton is on track for 70. Fire investigators are doing all they can to put a stop to the destructive and potentially deadly crimes, but without witnesses, tracking down suspects is a difficult task.
Arson is one of the hardest cases to prosecute because there’s less evidence than there would be in a regular crime. In fact, charges are brought in only two percent of arsons, nationally. But, local fire marshals got lucky last week when a group of prison workers caught Lehman Perkaquanard attempting to start a grass fire in Lawton and took him down. Authorities arrived on the scene and took the suspect into custody.
Arson investigations are more complicated, too. “We have success from time to time, it is a difficult thing to do. Many times on an arson fire, unless you have a witness it’s a little more lengthy detailed investigation,” says Lawton Fire Marshal Mark Mitchell.
There are seven ongoing arson investigations going on across the city: some grass fires, a fire at an apartment complex, and several other structural fires. The county is also investigating a series of fires suspected to be the work of arsonists. “There are about three fires that we suspicion that there may have been started intentionally,” says Comanche County Deputy Sheriff Ray Pyeat.t
Last Friday’s fire that started near Meers and ripped through 4,000 acres over 18 hours is the largest grass fire this year, and is being investigated as intentionally set. Pyeatt says while there has been an increase in arson across the county, it’s not out of the ordinary. “These things have a tendency to go in cycles. I can remember from years past, we’ve worked some arsons,” he says.
Authorities intend to bring the arsonists to justice. “It’s very possible we may have somebody in this area going around setting fires and if so, we’d appreciate it if they stop,” says Pyeatt. “I’d like to let them know that we’re going to be out there looking for them.”
Mitchell says there are a number of reasons why someone would intentionally start a fire: fraud, revenge, pyromania, and even vanity. He says some arsonists have been known to start a fire and pretend to discover it so they will be seen as a hero.
If you have any information about arson attempts in Lawton or Comanche County, call Crimestoppers at 580-355-INFO. As always, you can remain anonymous and your tip may earn you a cash reward.