String of several arson reports unusual

Robert Miller pleaded not guilty to an arson charge in Clark County Municipal Court on Thursday. The charge stems from a fire investigation Sunday at 967 Park Ave. According to the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division, neighbors reported seeing Miller allegedly go down an alley behind the property with a container of lamp oil and emerging about 10 minutes later, just as smoke and flames became visible.

The blaze caused about $2,000 in damage, Assistant Fire Chief Brian Miller said.

The assistant fire chief said Robert Miller confessed to setting the fire. He allegedly told authorities during an interview Wednesday he started the fire “because there had been some drug activity in this area and he wanted to draw attention to the police to stop that activity,” according to a police affidavit filed in the case.

Brian Miller said the current number of arson investigations is unusual in such a short time frame.

Other arrests on arson charges have been filed recently. Jill Best, 22, of Springfield, has been charged with a misdemeanor count and is accused of setting fire to clothes next to an apartment at 1926 Hatcher Drive. She pleaded not guilty to the charge Tuesday and is out of jail on her own recognizance, according to court records.

On Monday, someone set fire to a Chevy Suburban parked near the intersection of Harrison and South York streets. That report is one of several vehicle fires and blazes set to vacant structures in the past week, Brian Miller said. Many times it takes witnesses to help authorities make an arrest.

“We don’t solve many arson cases without somebody coming forward,” he said. “We always ask people to be vigilant and call.”

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