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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Iowa

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 National Arson Awareness Week

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA - This week the U.S. Fire Administration, an entity within Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, announced its theme highlighting the 2015 National Arson Awareness Week:  Accelerant Detection Canines – Sniffing out Arson.  In recognition of this week, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa and the State Fire Marshal Division within the Iowa Department of Public Safety agreed to combat the dangers of arson by sponsoring a training course of study.

Although America's fire losses today represent a dramatic improvement from more than 40 years ago, national statistics still reveal that fire kills over 3,000 and injures 17,000 people each year. Firefighters pay a high price for this terrible fire record as well; about 100 firefighters die on duty each year.  Direct property losses due to fire reach almost $12 billion a year.  US Attorney Kevin Techau stated, “Arson is a very dangerous and violent crime. It raises the risk of severe injury and even death to the public and responding firefighters and is often committed for profit as part of an insurance fraud scheme resulting in higher premiums passed on to innocent parties.”

“Arson is a cowardly crime and often difficult to prosecute without solid investigative tools and well-trained investigators,” stated Techau. He went on to add, “The type of training sponsored by the State Fire Marshal Division is crucial to solving these crimes as are leads that can be provided by everyday Iowans.  My office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners at all levels to aggressively investigate violent crimes of this nature that threaten our communities.”

Echoing Techau’s comments, State Fire Marshal Jeffrey Quigle offered, “The dynamic opportunity of pairing frontline fire investigators with prosecutors during this daylong training is a first for Iowa and should enhance the working partnership to combat arson related crimes.”

Major players involved in sniffing out the cause of arson crimes are the trained accelerant detection canines, the theme this year’s arson awareness week.  Iowa has three accelerant detection K-9 handlers.  The State Fire Marshal has one dedicated team headed by a Special Agent and his K-9 partner Pogo. The other two teams work out of fire departments in Cedar Rapids and Davenport.       

Iowa State Fire Marshal K-9 Pogo

                             Pogo entered Accelerant Detection duties in 2013.

The K-9 teams have been instrumental in investigating and solving arson crimes but when supported by witness tips the chance for a successful prosecution is greatly enhanced. Both Techau and Quigle invite the public to provide information and possible important tips pertaining to fires suspected of being arson and on any unsolved arson case. US Attorney Techau stressed that, “Detecting, investigating and prosecuting arson crime is everyone’s fight.”

Both Techau and Quigle emphasized that public tips and information can be extremely valuable in solving the case.  If the public has information on any of these unsolved arsons they are encouraged to contact the State Fire Marshal State Division at 215 East 7th Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50319, or by calling 515-725-6145.

  • December 12, 2003 – Henry County Courthouse. The fire occurred in the law library.  The law books were tossed on the floor and intentionally set on fire.
  • September 28, 2003 – Vacant church fire in Wever.  Fire was started in the attic and was determined to be intentionally set.
  • April 5, 2006 – Skateland Roller Skating Rink in Ft. Madison – There was evidence of a burglary that was likely attempted to be covered up by the arson.
  • August 15, 2007 – Cross burning in the yard of a private residence in Salem.  The FBI joined in this investigation but no leads were uncovered.
  • March 8, 2008 – First Presbyterian Church in Monticello.  Extensive damage to the front foyer and smoke and heat damage throughout.  The fire was determined to be intentionally set.
  • September 10, 2013 – Residential fire at 2720 Ave A in Council Bluffs. Racial and sexual slurs were found spray painted throughout the house. There were no signs of forced entry into the home. An accelerant canine was used during the investigation. The fire was found to be suspicious in nature.
  • January 16, 2015 – Residential fire at 2929 Ave G in Council Bluffs.  Gasoline was found poured throughout this residence and then lit on fire.

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Updated May 5, 2015