Asheville, NC-- A series of fires that started last week in Asheville have fire investigators looking at arson as a possible cause.
Friday night, fire destroyed a building and seriously damaged another near the city's River Arts District was intentionally set and was the latest in a string of blazes that officials believe are the work of at least one arsonist.
Investigators told the Asheville Citizen Times that four of eight fires in the city in the last five days were arson and the causes of two others are under investigation.
Fire Chief Scott Burnette said the blazes included two fires late Friday that destroyed buildings being salvaged prior to demolition on the planned site of New Belgium Brewery along the French Broad River.
Photo Gallery Of the Fires
Burnette said it's unclear whether the same arsonist could have started all of the fires.
"We don't know yet buy we certainly are considering that as a possibility," he said. "With this number of intentionally set fires that certainly gives us much alarm and we have a lot of resources working these investigations to determine if they are related."
The fires investigators say were set:
- 40 Simpson St., April 1
- 159 Riverside Drive, April 2
- 165 Craven St., April 5
- 91 Craven St., April 5
Two fires are still under investigation:
- 2500 River Ridge Drive, April 3
- 16 Shady Oak Drive, April 6
The burning of the Craven Street structures came three days after a blaze that heavily damaged a nearby building that was part of the old Asheville Cotton Mill on Riverside Drive.
"It's appalling to see this happening in our community, and we'll do everything we can to try to identify the perpetrator," City Manager Gary Jackson said Saturday as he surveyed the damage.
Bryan Simpson, a spokesman with New Belgium, said the company is working with fire investigators to determine the cause.
He said the fires will not delay construction, though the company did lose materials it had hoped to salvage. Demolition was underway at the 17.5-acre site in preparation for construction of the $175 million brewery.
The company hired off-duty police to provide security at the site. One drove by 30 minutes before the blaze but saw nothing. He said the company is considering increasing its security.
Written by: Clarke Morrison and Casey Blake with Asheville Citizen-Times