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Officials in North Little Rock are investigating a succession of tent fires that were started in homeless camps



North Little Rock, Arkansas – In North Little Rock’s unsheltered neighborhoods, residents believe someone set fire to their tents.

Paul Bailey devotes his time to helping the homeless population on behalf of a nonprofit organization called Hunger Force North Little Rock.

“We come out here and make contact with homeless people and we bring them food and hygiene supplies once a week,” said Bailey.

According to Bailey, he has grown familiar with many of the faces residing in unsheltered places over the years. He claimed that the homeless community has numerous challenges that other people might not even consider.

“They are living in a tent and that is hard enough, and to have someone come out here and make it even harder for them, that is just very cowardly and just a brutal thing to do,” said Bailey.

Bailey is referring to the flames that residents in the neighborhood without shelter have been experiencing.

“What you see behind you here used to be where one of our unsheltered neighbors lived, but someone has come and burned their tent down in the night and not just this one but at least four others that we know of in the area.” said Bailey.

He claimed that although the residents of these homeless groups had seen the offender, they were unable to provide a precise description.

Firefighters find it challenging to enter the unsheltered camps to extinguish the fires, according to Dustin Free, Assistant Fire Marshal for North Little Rock.

“It’s not like your typical structure firefighting. It turns into a makeshift housing area in the middle of the woods into a wildland fire,” said Free.

According to Free, there are frequently no witnesses present to describe the fire’s origins by the time the fire service arrives on the site.

He claimed that firefighters extinguish the fires and then depart, however, he made no mention of who started the fires.

“We hear a description of a person and the descriptions are always real vague,” Free said. “You get a first name, no last name, so it is really hard. Unless somebody actually sees a person committing the act and give a good description of who they are, there is really not a lot we can do.”

Free stated that even though they are not conducting an investigation, he cautions that leaving fires unattended could become deadly.

“If they leave these things burning at night when they are trying to sleep or even during the day when they are trying to sleep, there is only one way out of a tent,” he said. “You’re zipping yourself up in it and a fire starts on the outside, you are putting yourself in a lot of danger.”