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An arsonist set fire to leaf piles and yard waste at curbside in the Mordecai neighborhood, leaving behind a trail of charred patches of grass in front yards.
Fires occurred in the nighttime hours in the yards of as many as a dozen homes in the past two weeks, according to descriptions on the neighborhood’s online community forum.
Police are searching for the culprits. No fires have been reported since last week, said Shane Trahan, who helps lead an unofficial community watch effort in Mordecai.
Laura Browning said she smelled smoke when she stepped outside to let out her cat early one morning last week. A short time later, her husband spotted a small brush fire and grabbed a watering can to put out the flame.
“I don’t know if it’s just a stupid prank,” Browning said. “We have a lot of foot traffic, people walking through” the neighborhood.
Only one resident has filed a police report, but the person told officers that other fires had been discovered, said police spokesman Jim Sughrue. Police are working with the fire department to check recent fire calls in the area, and the work is expected to yield additional incidents, Sughrue said.
“The officers working that area have been made aware of the case and are on the lookout,” Sughrue said in an email.
The cases are stirring concern in Mordecai, a historic neighborhood just north of downtown that has enjoyed a renaissance during the past decade. Families have renovated many older homes and brought a sense of pride to the community.
The fires occurred at night in an area roughly between Watauga and Norris streets, according to descriptions on SeeClickFix, the popular city-run mobile app that lets residents report neighborhood problems.
During fall and early winter, residents are asked to leave leaf piles at curbside for collection by city trucks.
But the culprits haven’t just struck leaf piles. A pile of yard waste was also set ablaze, apparently after the city collected leaves in the neighborhood.
Some neighbors have decided to take action on their own. People banded together for neighborhood patrols through the area, but the walks did not result in any discoveries, according to SeeClickFix.
“The neighbors put out a call to action,” said Trahan, the community watch leader. “It’s a pretty close-knit community. We keep an eye out for each other.”