Greenville County Arsons On Rise, Deputies Training To Solve Cri - WSPA.com

Greenville County Arsons On Rise, Deputies Training To Solve Crime

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GREER, S.C. -

As fire calls increase in Greenville County, Sheriff's Office deputies are now training to be part of the team to help solve suspicious cases.  Around seven Greenville deputies, along with a dozen others from Greer, Spartanburg County, and surrounding agencies, are in the middle of a weeklong training session on fire investigations.  "This teaches students to be able to go to a fire scene and process that fire scene from beginning to end," says Sheriff's Office fire investigator Charles Gonzalez.

Monday, Greer firefighters set fire to three different homes, two on Anita Street and one of Moore Street in Greer, as the first part of the training.  Deputies like Hal Harris, who's taking part in the training, will then be tasked with going in and determining how the fire happened, and if it's suspicious.  "This is a real live test," Harris says.  "It's gonna be up to us to go in and use the clue to try to determine the origin of the fire."

Gonzalez says the training is desperately needed, as fire calls have been "on the rise" for several years in the county.  Arsons, specifically, have increased.  In 2010, the county investigated 58 arsons.  Cases increased by more than 40%, to 83 cases in 2012.  Still, only an average of 25% of the cases are solved.  Gonzalez says it's because the crime is one of their most difficult.  "It's very hard to prove," he says.  "There's so many factors that go into as far as fire causes and potential fire causes."

Tuesday, deputies who are training will go into each of the homes, picking through the pieces of the fire to determine a cause.  Gonzalez says, in the end, all residents benefit.  Having more investigators means the ability to free up manpower for other crimes and cases, he says.  "They can go in with the confidence that, hey, I may be able to figure out what happened here."

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