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Fires were arson, investigator says

3/20/2014

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

The Kansas Fire Marshal's office has joined with Ellis County officials in asking for help in locating whoever is responsible for what the state office now is calling "numerous arsons."

"Since March 6," the fire marshal's office said in a statement, "there have been 20 fires that have been ruled incendiary or crimes of arson."

The statement didn't provide a breakdown of the fires, but the sheriff's office has been investigating at least 16 fires -- including one Saturday that burned nearly 1,200 acres of grassland -- as possible arsons.

Ellis County Rural Fire Director Richard Klaus asked for help from the state fire marshal's office after the first round of fires March 6.

In its statement, the fire marshal's office said investigators actively are pursuing details surrounding the fires and "are working several leads."

The statement reiterated Klaus's concern that the fires pose a threat for residents, first responders and surrounding property.

"We are asking for the public's help in being vigilant in locating any suspicious person or persons, and come forward with information," State Fire Marshal Doug Jorgensen said.

"It's vital the offender is apprehended before there is a major loss to property or someone is seriously injured."

Anyone with information about these fires is asked to contact the Ellis County Sheriff at (785) 625-1040, office of the State Fire Marshal at (785) 296-8984 or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation tipline at (800) KS-CRIME.