Authorities are trying to stop a serial arsonist who set five fires at a Bloomfield Road apartment complex over the weekend.
"It's really sick that someone would set a fire in buildings where children are sleeping, where anyone is sleeping," said Macon-Bibb County Fire Chief Jimmy Hartley.
No one has been injured in the fires at Colony West Apartments, and most of the damage has been moderate, Hartley said.
Hartley said the first two fires began Friday morning sometime after 2 a.m., after someone crawled underneath two occupied apartments through the crawl space and ignited floor joists. Saturday morning sometime after 2 a.m., a maintenance room and a vacant apartment were burned. Sunday, residents stayed up to 4 a.m. watching the complex, Hartley said. But the arsonist didn't strike until 5:30 a.m., badly burning one vacant unit, though the fire was contained.
"There hasn't been any serious damage yet, but if this keeps up it's just a matter of time," Hartley said. Damage would have been much worse if firefighters, who were stationed blocks away, hadn't acted so quickly, Hartley said.
Hartley said several families have had to be relocated because of damage to their apartments.
Hartley said the arsons likely were started by a juvenile who has been abused or a sociopath who is very angry. He said if it's a juvenile arsonist, that person also may torture animals. Hartley said the fire department is working with Macon police on the matter.
Macon police Lt. Kenneth Wilcox said during the early morning hours several officers will now monitor the complex inside and out, talking to people leaving and going to the apartments.
"We'll do it as long as it takes," Wilcox said.
During other times, one officer will monitor the area.
Wilcox said he didn't know how the area was monitored Saturday and Sunday morning.
Several residents at the complex, which is made up of several 8-unit buildings situated in a U-shape, said they were scared and are considering moving.
"Right now there are a lot of people still shaken up and it will be worse at night," resident Kwajelyn Brown, 28, said Sunday, hours before sunset.
She woke up to smoke Sunday morning, looked outside her window and saw an apartment in her complex burning, she said. After she called the fire department, she evacuated her children, her mother and several neighbors.
"I'm terrified, it has to stop," she said. "You don't want to go to bed thinking, 'It will be this house. Don't let it be this house. Which one is it going to be?' "
Neil Thornton, 40, said that Saturday morning he smelled smoke at a vacant apartment near him and saw that firefighters were at a different unit.
"I said 'Hey, you guys are at the wrong building,' " Thornton said. He said he and firefighters soon learned there were two buildings burning.
He said Sunday that he would do what he could to make sure it didn't happen again and planned to walk the grounds.
"It's not about the reward," Thornton said. "You can't put a price on human life."
Thornton said he wasn't scared but concerned for his neighbors, many who are elderly, sick, and could have difficulty escaping a fire.
"Anyone who would do something like this would have to have a lot of hatred in them," he said.
Anyone with information that could help investigators can call the Georgia State Patrol arson hotline at (800) 282-5804. Tipsters could earn up to $10,000.
Distributed by the Associated Press