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Fire, Vandalism Found at Smithton Summer Camp

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SMITHTON, IL (KTVI) - In Illinois, fire and police investigators are working to find who may have set a suspicious fire at an empty summer camp Thursday morning.

The call came in just before 4 am for a fire at the YMCA Outdoor Center near Smithton, Illinois.  Firefighters arrived, smelled smoke, and smelled something fishy.  They immediately called the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department.

“Well, I can’t go into specific evidence,” said St. Clair Sheriff’s Captain Seven Johnson.  “But there’s several items that are being analyzed and taken into evidence.”

Police called for back up right away, bringing in the fire marshal and state police crime lab.  They want to determine quickly if this latest fire is another on the list of recent arsons in the past couple of weeks.

“Well, obviously it’s a little early for me to say that,”Johnson said.  “However, we’ve had 7 fires.  Immediately when it’s in this type of area that doesn’t see that many, anyone would think that they’re connected in some way or another.”

But, sunlight uncovered more damage in Smithton than anywhere else.

“There’s a few buildings that had some damage - not necessarily fire,” Johnson pointed out.  “But, apparently someone was attempting entry into those.”

Each fire has presented its own danger.  At the Smithton scene, there wasn’t just one propane tank.  There were two.

“Absolutely,”Johnson said.  “Just the term firefighter and then when you add the types of things that are going on here, it adds just that much more danger.”

One woman working nearby admitted, off-camera, that residents are scared.

“Well, I think it’s very important that they’re diligent,” Johnson explained.  “If you see a suspicious vehicle, a suspicious person, regardless of the nighttime, daytime, that you call the Sheriff’s Department.”

Police said they will bring at least this much manpower to every fire until they can find if arson is the cause and who is responsible.  The fire marshal is also investigating.

The St. Clair County Sheriff's Department is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in suspicious fires in St. Clair County.

Anyone with information can contact the Arson Alert Hotline: 1-800-252-2947 or 618-277-3500 at the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department.

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