Norfolk landlord says his two building fires were caused by arson

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Posted at 5:37 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 08:59:38-04

NORFOLK, Va. - James Jones has owned the property at 1122 Redgate Avenue for years, but recently something has changed on the quiet street.

"I don't know that it's happening along any other corridor than along here," he said.

Jones said the trouble started last year.

"[On] February 10, 2020, there was an automobile [on Redgate Ave.] that was torched. [Then two months later,] somebody came and lit the plastic trash can on fire in our alleyway, pushed the cans up against our gas feeders and after the cans got into a blaze, the gas meters exploded. We had four human beings in the building at the time that that happened flames shooting 20 feet in the air."

While they were trying to rebound from the first fire, the home went up in flames again.

"Cameras that had already been set up caught the image of the perpetrator coming through the alleyway with a hoodie and a mask," he said.

The second fire was set upstairs on the second floor.

"All the investigations that have been done within the fire department [and] our insurance company, investigators haven't been able to find anything about who did it."

In June, Jones said a bomb threat also brought FBI investigators to the West Ghent neighborhood, all while his four-unit home underwent renovations.

Earlier this month on June 2, temporary cameras set up in his backyard caught the moment when another fire started. This time, the target was a car parked out front of the home.

"The neighbors feel unsafe," he said.

In a statement to News 3, the president of the West Ghent Civic League said, "Clearly this is a concerning situation, and I can assure you any information the civic league has received has been immediately escalated to city officials. My sincerest hope is that this is helpful to residents knowing information is being shared quickly and helpful to law enforcement to have the information."

Related: Fire at Norfolk senior living community believed to be arson

The Norfolk Fire Department confirmed that there have been several incidents recently in the Ghent section of Norfolk involving both structures and vehicles.

"All I can tell you at this time is the investigations are ongoing. Our FMO [fire marshal's office] is aggressively working to find some answers to these cases," said the department's public information officer.

Until there's resolve, Jones said, "We're going to have more lighting and security cameras and locked gates."