DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) —In response to the recent string of fires primarily downtown, Dothan Fire-Rescue, in conjunction with the Dothan Police Department, is taking a new look at its arson investigation task force.
This task force allows Dothan Police and fire to train closely together to ensure a cause is found quickly and, if needed, an arrest can be made.
“Where fire departments lose arson cases is when they try to do police officer stuff, because we are not police officers. But if it is suspicious, we are ahead of the game very quickly,” Deputy Fire Chief, Chris Etheredge said.
Without this task force re-vamp, fire investigations would take longer, but now with the two departments training to work together, more can get done efficiently.
“I don’t have the experience the guys from the fire department have on the origins and the cause determinations of the fire. They don’t have the experience interviewing witnesses and suspects and collecting evidence. They understand what I’m looking for and I understand what they’re looking for,” Investigator with the Dothan Police Department, Chris Thompson said.
With a homeless man being arrested and charged with setting fire to the Town Terrace Inn on Oates Street, fingers are being pointed to the homeless population in Dothan, but Thompson doesn’t believe the group is to blame.
“We do have a large homeless population in Dothan and by far most of them don’t cause problems to anybody. We believe the fires were the result of a few bad actors,” said Thompson.
As to rumors whether the city is starting these fires as a way to speed up downtown re-development, turns out the city doesn’t own any of the buildings that have been afflicted.
“The city very much takes pride in its public safety and the safety of its citizens — the property in this jurisdiction. There is no way the city is having people go out and set fires to put the public and first responders at risk,” Thompson said.