MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) - At least one of the 27 cases of arson is connected to a previous murder investigation, Local 15 News confirmed through investigators Wednesday night.
In Decemeber 2011, Mondrakgo Caldwell died from a gunshot wound to his head and his body was left burning near a cemetery. In April 2012, investigators said, someone set fire to a home on Selma St. Officials used the word retaliation to describe the arson.
Relatives of Caldwell own several properties on Selma St. as well as other streets where some of the 27 arsons in Oakleigh have occurred, records show.
A house at the corner of Marine and Savannah Streets, partially burned in a 2011 fire, burned again Tuesday night, spreading to the house next to it. That house was vacant, but had just been remodeled and put on the market Tuesday.
"You don't know," said local resident Joseph McCovery. "You might wake up and the house next to you is on fire and. You just don't know what to do!"
But the problem is much greater than local residents may realize.
According to Mobile fire officials, since 2009 there have been 27 house fires in a five block by eight block area surrounding Marine and Savanah streets. Many of them have the same thing in common, Steve Huffman of Mobile Fire Rescue said.
The houses were vacant and the fires were intentionally set. "Oh, no," he told Local 15 News. "We don't think this is coincidence." Huffman said this is more than just burned buildings. He said if people in the area don't start talking about what they know very soon, it could result in someone being burned alive.
"There have been a few that they were occupied structures on either side of it that also got damaged," Huffman recounted, "and could have gone further than that, could have hurt somebody seriously or even killed somebody."
Donald Bolling cares for an elderly homeowner in the neighborhood. "I've wondered when the day will come when I have to take the old person I take care of, pick him up and run him out of here," he said, "because, you know, he can barely walk!"
Huffman said figuring out how the fires were set is the easy part. Finding out who is doing it requires some help. "Somebody knows something, but what we suspect is they are probably afraid, understandably," he said. "But we have a way they can give us information without being known."
There are two ways you can give information to the fire department. Call their arson tip line at 208-MFRD. You can also send them a message on Twitter using the handle @arsontip.