The spectre of someone skulking up to a house — maybe vacant, maybe not — splashing an accelerant and striking a match is terrifying. It is also a reality Charleston peninsula residents have lived with for 12 years.
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen is saying that residents can “breathe easier” knowing someone has been arrested in connection with one downtown house fire and two in Hollywood.
They can also be encouraged to know that it was a citizen’s tip that led authorities to the suspect, Kenneth Boone.
Others with information about any of the more than 80 suspicious house fires on the peninsula since 2000, should follow suit. Providing tips could help Charleston’s arson task force make more arrests or determine if this suspect should face additional charges. Information could prevent another fire from destroying someone’s house and imperiling lives.
It is immensely gratifying that headway is finally being made. But until all the fires are accounted for, residents shouldn’t let their guard down.
There is no assurance that the city has been bedeviled over the last 12 years by a single individual. And it is reasonable to think that accomplices could be involved.
Indeed, Chief Mullen had a message for those accomplices: Cooperate with authorities and stand a chance of being treated with leniency, or remain mum and be caught and “exposed to the full range of charges that will be sought against anyone involved in these fires.”
Charleston’s fire and police departments worked with county and federal investigators to develop confidential sources, and they are committed to maintaining their efforts on all the pending arson cases.
People who have survived fires say they never forget the acrid smell and the sense of fear and loss. With arson, there also is a sense of being violated.
With yesterday’s arrest, the authorities also are breathing easier. The task force is confident of continued progress in its investigation.
Residents can be a quiet part of that effort. Those who have information can pass it along, knowing they are doing the right thing. Or they can pass it along, hoping that if they were involved, they will get a better deal from the authorities.
It is clear that fire and police officials are prepared to pursue this case and the broader arson investigation relentlessly. They deserve the community’s gratitude and continued support.