Sheriff suspects barn fires are the work of an arsonist

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MACOUPIN COUNTY, IL – The search is on for an arsonist who has been burning down barns across Macoupin County, Illinois.

Four barns burned in less than a month. All were full of hay; total damages are estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Mark Totsch is a farmer where one barn burned.

“I have no clue why somebody would do anything like this, ” said Mark Totsch, farmer.

Charred poles and twisted metal are all that’s left of his barn. There is some hay left but it’s not fit for animal consumption.

Photos showed what it looked like when the fire raced through the old barn. Volunteer firefighters from at least four departments flooded the burning building with 110,000 gallons of water. It was a battle they could not win.

“It can really hurt farmer if he loses all his hay going into winter he can be in a tough bind trying to find hay this time of year,” said Totsch.

Macoupin County Sheriff Shawn Kahl said, “We kind of believe it’s the same person, I’m pretty sure it’s the same person. I kind of believe it might be tied to some other fires about a year ago in the same general area.”

At that time a schoolhouse and barn burned, no one was caught.

The sheriff said there was no power running to any of the barns that recently burned which is one reason he suspects arson. One man lost two barns and all the hay inside. Sheriff Kahl said the structures are in remote areas which makes the investigation more challenging.

“They’re out in the middle of nowhere there’s just been no witnesses we don’t really have anybody calling anything in,” said Sheriff Kahl.

The destroyed property can be replaced, the state fire marshal and sheriff are worried about the folks who fight the fires.

“Fighting a fire is pretty dangerous. Walls could fall down, firemen could be hurt there could be loss of life just trying to fight these fires,” said Kahl.

 If you know something about the fires the sheriff and the state fire marshal would like to hear from you, here are their phone numbers:

Phone numbers to catch the arsonist:

Macoupin County Sheriff: 217-854-3135

Office of Illinois State Fire Marshall Hotline: 800-252-2947

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