Police look for suspect after several fires set near USC-Upstate

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SPARTANBURG CO., S.C. (WSPA) – A college community in Spartanburg County is on high alert after a rash of fires across the campus.

The fires were set over the weekend at USC-Upstate.

7 News learned how police are working to track down the potential arsonist and what students think about it.

“I don’t know what’s going on,” USC-Upstate senior, Reid Bedell, said.

Bedell, along with several other students at USC-Upstae, said they were confused by the recent series of fires they’d seen on their college’s campus.

“We called in fire and they put it out. Within a matter of minutes, another fire was observed just a couple hundred yards down from there. And, then, while they were putting that one out, a third fire started right back where the original fire was,” USC-Upstate Assistant Police Chief Dave Myers said.

Eight fires were set in the span of just six hours on Sunday. Those fires were seen on roadsides and woodlines on and around the campus, with some of them happening near apartments and sports fields. Police believe they’re all connected.

“It doesn’t appear that the individual is attempting to create any property damage to structures so much as they are nuisances to public safety and the area,” Myers said. “However, any number of those fires could have potentially spread and caused life-threatening situations.”

Myers told 7 News they’ve been lucky, as all of the rain we’ve had has definitely helped to keep the fires under control.

“It is rather moist out there and the ability for these fires to spread rapidly, such as what occurred in Australia and other places, is not there for us,” he said.

But, if the person responsible isn’t caught, things could potentially get worse.

“There’s a ton of brush over there,” Bedell said. “If something starts over there, there’s no telling where it’s going to spread to and how quickly it’s going to spread.”

“Arsons tends to escalate–unless you’re talking about small children, which we don’t believe this is,” Myers added. “But they do tend to escalate and that is one of the things we’re concerned about.”

That’s why the department sent out an alert to students with a description of a suspect and encouraged them to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity. They told 7 News they’ve also increased patrols across campus.

“It was almost like a weird joke at first, but, now, it’s just concerning,” Bedell said. “If he can start those fires, and he has the motive to do that, he probably has the motive to do something a little more serious.”

The police department at USC-Upstate is working closely with local fire departments as they continue to investigate the fires.

They said they are still looking for the suspect who was last seen wearing khaki pants and a dark-colored shirt.

If you have any information about the fires or the suspect, you’re asked to contact the USC-Upstate Police Department.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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