Jefferson County authorities believe arsonist responsible for three fires

DE SOTO, Mo. - Firefighters suspect an arsonist is on the loose in Jefferson County. Investigators believe three fires were intentionally set in a five-day period.

So far, grass and trees have burned. They want to catch the person responsible before buildings or homes go up in flames.

"We think we got a firebug on our hands," De Soto Rural Fire Chief Paul Mayer said.

Mayer said the first fire occurred in a ditch along Klondike Road. Firefighters initially suspected a discarded cigarette was to blame. Then a few days later, the field directly across the road turned black after a fire burned there.

"It's real close to home. It's less than a mile from our house it's a little concerning," said Warren Nelson, who lives in the area.

The next day after a third suspicious fire, the fire chief called the sheriff's office and its arson detectives for help.

"Now we got one up someone's driveway quite some distance which is closer to a residence," said Captain Gary Higginbotham, Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

Officials worry the firebug could grow bolder.

"That they graduate to something else, whether it be cars or barns or houses or something like that, it does seem they get a little braver," Mayer said.

Deputies have stepped up patrols in the area. Some folks are afraid to leave their residences unattended.

"We're in a record drought, about 10 inches below rainfall this year alone, everything is dry with the winds we've been having lately," Mayer said. "It doesn't take long for something to sweep across a field and right to someone's house."