BATON ROUGE- Four fires, in a week and a half, across the Capital area, are under investigation and could be criminal.
The State Fire Marshal's Office says suspicious fires and arsons have gone up almost 30% since Spring and it's costing taxpayers, homeowners and business owners millions.
The most recent head-scratching scene came Monday afternoon in the Gardere area. Investigators are still trying to figure out how the flames from a fire at an abandoned fourplex on Jasper Ave. were shooting through the roof soon after the blaze began.
St. George Fire District Spokesman Eldon Ledoux said, "Normal procedure for a loss of this significance and whenever there's not an obvious cause and origin of the fire."
Other fires under the microscope since the start of the month include an apartment fire in Port Allen the first week of December, a questionable stove fire in Baker over the weekend and a vacant home fire in Denham Springs Monday morning.
The State Fire Marshal's Office says it's a continuing trend of increasing arsons, especially during winter months.
Fire Marshal Butch Browning said, "We do see a lot of fires around this time because vacant buildings are being used by vagrants or even buildings that people don't have utilities to, they're using different types of methods to heat it."
But there's also insurance fraud, family feuds and crime that contribute to the growing numbers, and of course, that makes the cost to deal with the cases grow too.
"It's incomprehensible what people can do with the power of a flame, " said Browning, "It's a multi-million dollar effort just in the fire marshal's office to keep up with the growing arson problem."
And that price winds up being paid by taxpayer pocketbooks eventually.
He said, "We all pay and what that equates to at the end of the year when insurance premiums are being paid out, it equates into being higher costs for everyone who purchases insurance."