Police searching for suspect in string of 'suspicious fires'

Traverse City Police are searching for a suspect they believe may be involved in a string of suspicious fires in the Traverse City area.

Traverse City Police are searching for a suspect they believe may be involved in a string of suspicious fires in the Traverse City area.

In early July, officers responded to a fire in a small wooded area near the 300 block of West Front Street near J&S Burgers.

"After it was put out, the fire department and the police department working together were trying to figure out how the fire started and it was determined at that time that someone had lit that fire," said Traverse City Police Capt. Brian Heffner.

The fire was quickly extinguished, but an investigation recovered video of the area at the time of the fire. The video was recently enhanced and shows the suspect in this case lighting the fire and fleeing the scene.

The suspect is described as a white male with brown hair. He is described as 20 to 30 years old and between 5'5" and 5'8" tall.

Since the fire near West Front Street, there have been four additional fires in and around Traverse City that have been labeled as "suspicious." One fire was intentionally set in a small brush pile next to the banquet center at the Traverse City Golf and Country Club on August 12, 2013. The latest fire that is being investigated occurred on September 6, 2012 at 12:30a.m. on Grant Street, where another small brush pile was lit on fire, and traveled to a small storage shed that caught fire.

"We don't know for sure that they're connected but they are very similar," said Capt. Heffner. "The fires started in small brush piles near buildings. No other source of fire, no electricity near where these fires are started. No grills, no campfires going on. So we believe that they're intentionally set."

Additionally, the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Office is investigating two other suspicious fires. One that occurred in Copper Ridge and the other at the Concrete Service on West Front Street.

Thankfully these fires were all extinguished quickly, and no one was hurt, but officials are worried that if the person responsible is not caught soon, then worse could happen. Capt. Heffner says they would like to identify the man in the video to determine whether or not he had anything to do with the other fires.

"We don't want a scenario where something is lit and goes unnoticed for a period of time when it ignites a structure where people are actually in it," said Capt. Heffner. Obviously we want to prevent property damage but we need to get this individual in custody so that no additional damage occurs to structures or any injuries as a result of these fires."

Anyone with information that may help identify the suspect is asked to contact the Traverse City Police Department Detective Bureau at 231-995-5152. Anonymous tips can go through 231-947-8477.