Suspicious Fires Plaque Heartland Neighborhood

Suspicious Fires Plaque Heartland Neighborhood
By: Carly O'Keefe

MURPHYSBORO, Ill. - It's déjà vu for folks in one Murphysboro neighborhood. 
People who live in the Harrison neighborhood were glad when a 21-year-old man was convicted of arson and put in jail for setting fire to the Jackson Livestock Auction Barn.  There had been several other arson fires in the neighborhood between June 2006 and February 2007, but it had all stopped when Michael Etherton was arrested.  That is, until now.
Three new suspicious fires have been set in that same neighborhood in the past two weeks, making folks there feel a little uneasy again.
"It's kind of confusing that somebody doesn't have anything better to do than start a fire, trying to burn us up," said Jeremy Partridge, the co-owner of Roberta's Resale Shop located in the Harrison neighborhood.
According to Partridge, someone threw a Molotov cocktail at his business Monday night, trying to set the building on fire.
"We have a good neighbor, Randy, he called it in immediately so it only burnt 5-10 minutes, but it doesn't take long to go up, 30 more minutes and the whole place could have been gone," said Partridge.
Owners of two nearby structures weren't so lucky.  Investigators say two mobile homes located on Ruth Lane and C Circle Drive have suspiciously caught fire in the past two weeks.  It almost seems as if history were repeating itself in the Harrison neighborhood.  
"For the fire department, it's kind of like a bad dream, it keeps coming back," said Chief Bill Bateman of the Murphysboro Pomona Summerset Fire Protection District.
In February, Etherton was arrested following an arson fire that destroyed the Jackson County Livestock Sale Barn.  Police followed tracks in the snow that lead them from the fire scene straight to Etherton.  Now, fire officials ask folks to help them discover who's responsible for this most recent round of suspicious fires.
"If anyone sees anything, or knows anything, call the sheriff's department.  And please report and report fires quickly, we're a volunteer department and quicker it's reported, the quicker we can respond," said Bateman.
The Illinois Fire Marshall's Office arson hotline is (800) 252-2947.