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WSU Police heighten surveillance after string of fires

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13, 2012, 12:04 P.M.

Washington State University Police have increased surveillance in light of the recent rash of suspicious fires on the Pullman campus.

Prior to the four fires that occurred between May 22 and June 5, the campus had five or six cameras mounted in intersections and on walls outside buildings, said Steve Hansen, the assistant chief of the WSU Police. But since the third fire on May 29 in McCoy Hall, police have added about 10 or 15 portable cameras in various undisclosed locations, Hansen said.

“We’re reviewing some of the footage to see if we have any useful information,” he said.

So far, no suspicious footage has emerged, Hansen said. The WSU Police are leading an arson task force that continues to investigate the fires. The group also includes the Pullman police and fire departments and the WSU Fire Marshal’s Office.

WSU Police have also had more foot patrols on campus each night since the string of fires began.

Evidence from each fire has been sent to the State Patrol Crime Lab in Cheney for analysis.

“We’re still waiting to get information back from the lab to see if we can match prints from this scene (a concrete stairwell in the Fine Arts building garage, where the fourth fire occurred) with evidence from any of the other scenes,” Hansen said.

Police are still not sure if the fires are connected or whether one or more people were involved in setting them.

The most recent fire caused minimal damage, leaving char marks on a wall. The first three racked up more than $800,000 in damage, destroying two community centers in university-owned apartments and ruining lab equipment in McCoy Hall. No one was hurt in any of the instances.

WSU Police have set up an anonymous arson tip line for anyone with information about the fires, but few calls have come in so far, Hansen said.



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