TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - The Toledo Fire Investigative Unit sent a stern warning to potential arsonists: Arson will not be tolerated.
The city formed the unit shortly after the death of two Toledo firefighters in a blaze that was ruled an arson. Investigators from Toledo and Fire Departments now join forces in solving suspected arson cases.
The evidence from their investigation is then passed to a special county prosecutor to convict the alleged arsonist.
"It's a very unique unit, one that was very overdue," Chief George Kral said. "I'm glad we put this together when we did, and I look forward to keeping the momentum going and growing on the program as it already is."
In 2015, the unit helped to bring about five arrests and five convictions.
Last year, that number jumped up to 41 arrests and 26 convictions. Fourteen others are still in the legal system while another suspect is under psychiatric evaluation.
"Many of these folks that are lighting fires just aren't lighting fires. They're doing other bad things," Chief Luis Santiago said. "And because of this partnership there's intelligence sharing that goes on amongst various divisions within the police department of which we have access to."
The city says the ripple effect of arson goes beyond property damage and insurance headaches. It is a public safety issue that needs to be addressed.