Fire investigative unit lays down hammer on arson crimes

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - Anytime someone chooses to intentionally start a fire, neighbors, firefighters and good Samaritans' lives are placed into jeopardy.

The two recent arson cases in Toledo, showed just how dangerous these intentional fires are to those trying to make a rescue or put out the flames.

Back in December, investigators determined that the huge vacant house fire located on Palmwood near Collingwood Avenue, was started by Rex Davis, a homeless man staying inside with others.

Davis is now charged with several counts of aggravated arson.

"That was my home, that was my home," said Davis to WTOL 11, the day of the fire.

And then just a week ago, a Toledo firefighter was hurt in an intentional fire on the east side. Firefighters at the scene ran out in flames. With their gear on fire, a mayday was called.

"When the embers fell onto the sustain, a fire did flair up and they were standing in the middle of it but they were able to get out of the home quickly," explained Sterling Rahe with TFD.

Charges and conviction on cases like these, are a priority now with the Fire investigative unit that was formed two years ago.

Crackdowns on arson and the formation of the arson unit came after the deaths of firefighters Steve Machcinski and Jamie Dickman. They both died when a fire was intentionally set at a two-story apartment building back in 2014.

Police fire and prosecutors are now working harder to put an emphasis on charging those responsible for putting so many lives at danger intentionally.

A team of Police and Fire investigators along with a prosecuting attorney have pulled their resources together to convict over 50 arsonists in 2016 and 2017.

"There was a lack of resources and a lack of communication between police and the fire investigation unit. Where the fire investigation unit tried to solve these on their own, they weren't getting the intelligence they needed to solve the crimes," explained Matt Simko, the assistant prosecuting attorney.

"It was a meeting of the minds. Chief Santiago Chief Kral came together saying how can we do this better and instead of just accepting the status quo," said Rahe.

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