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Local

DeKalb police seeking arsonist after more blazes at Ridgebrook apartments

Firefighters bring a ladder back to the engine in the parking lot of Ridgebrook Apartments, 808 Ridge Road, DeKalb, after several residents had to be pulled from their apartments because fire had pinned them in.
Firefighters bring a ladder back to the engine in the parking lot of Ridgebrook Apartments, 808 Ridge Road, DeKalb, after several residents had to be pulled from their apartments because fire had pinned them in.

DeKALB – Police are raising the alarm about a series of fires that have been set at the Ridgebrook apartments at 808 Ridge Drive, including a pair of fires on Friday morning, just days after another blaze there led to the evacuation of residents.

DeKalb police said Saturday that two fires were set in common areas of the building on Friday, and others were attempted. One of the fires apparently was set while emergency personnel were on the scene, the release said.

"The details are limited on what we are able to discuss regarding the investigation, however the seriousness of these crimes and the safety concerns we have for the occupants of the apartment complex are significant,” DeKalb Police Chief Eugene Lowery said in a written statement. “It is vital for rental property owner(s) to share that concern and do whatever they can to insure the safety of their tenants, that includes a functional video camera system, appropriate fire control and alarm systems, a structurally safe environment that promotes the well being of the people that live there, and to cooperate with local authorities in a partnership for the betterment of our community.”

A joint investigation is currently underway with DeKalb Fire, the State Fire Marshal, DeKalb Police, and the DeKalb County Major Case Squad, police said.

Police said the Friday fires began around the same time as a Wednesday blaze that caused extensive damage and left eight apartments uninhabitable. It was the third case of arson at the complex.

The suspect in the first intentionally set fire has a clear alibi for the recent fires – she's been held at DeKalb County Jail for months on $100,000 bond.

Chikyta Williams of DeKalb is accused of aggravated arson in connection with a January fire that was set in an apartment at the complex. Prosecutors allege Williams started the fire because she was distraught over a breakup.

The first of Friday morning's fires was extinguished by a resident. The apartment's occupant said the fire alarm sounded just before 6 a.m. and upon opening the door, saw a doormat on fire. Fire personnel inspected all areas of the building and identified multiple points of attempted ignition in other hallway locations. 

While police and fire personnel conducted their investigation into the doormat fire, a second smoke alarm in the building was activated after a small fire originated in the hallway.

"The second fire is believed to have been ignited while police and fire personnel were present," according to Saturday's news release.

This marks the fourth time in seven months that fire has been reported at the complex.

The building is owned by Hunter Properties, and messages seeking comment have not yet been returned. Police officials did not return calls regarding the situation on Friday. Thaddeus Mack, the city’s chief building official said coincidentally, after the city brought up multiple code violations to the owners, the building passed Tuesday – less than 24 hours before the fire.

​He said the violations were the result of a top-to-bottom inspection, citing anything from holes in walls to fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.

Saturday's news release said the building at 808 Ridge Drive is equipped with a security camera system, "but the system has been inoperable since the property was acquired by Hunter Properties."

The city has requested that Hunter Properties re-activate the cameras, and install cameras at their other properties in the city. Hunter Properties will implement security cameras at 808 Ridge Drive within the next several days, according to the news release.

Anyone with information regarding this investigation are encouraged to contact the DeKalb Police Department at 815-748-8400 or Crime Stoppers at 815-895-3272, or by email at crimestoppers@dekalbcounty.org. Callers to CrimeStoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward if information provided leads to an arrest. 

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