Kevin Newland, Special Agent with the Virginia State Police, admits arson is one tough case to crack.
"We have to get in and get dirty, dig around and put things back together like a puzzle so we can determine where the fire started," Newland says.
He is describing a typical day for an arson specialist. It's not an easy job.
"Arson is one of the hardest crimes to solve," he says.
Evidence is often destroyed by fire or the water used to extinguish the fire. But despite winter weather conditions, investigators say they can still find evidence to prove an arson case.
"There are certain factors and steps we go through to determine if it was an accidental fire or was it a set fire," Newland says.
He is using these secret techniques to crack the serial arson case in Luray. The latest fire happened at the corner of East Main Street and Wilson Street early Saturday. The blaze fits the pattern of nine other suspicious downtown fires in the past two months.
"Different firesetters have distinct patterns that they follow and that helps you link things together," Newland says.
Most of the Luray fires started on weekends, late at night or in the early morning. But there are still no suspects.
Dan Seal, Luray Fire Chief, says, "It could be your next door neighbor. We don't know."
Seal says he knows this case might go on for a while. Of the thirty or so cases Newland has investigated in the past three years, he says not one has led to a conviction.
"It's very frustrating. But you do all you can do. You put 100 percent into every investigation and you hope the lead breaks so you can make an arrest," he says.
Newland admits juvenile fire setters are a problem. Studies show more than half of all arsonists are eighteen or younger.
Contact your local police if you have any information in this case. There is an award for up to $5,000.
whsv.com Extended Web Coverage
Source: www.usfa.fema.gov contributed to this report