Residents of South Park and Sunnyside are on high alert due to a rash of fires plaguing their communities in recent months. Occupied businesses, homes and abandoned buildings have all fallen victim to an arsonist.
Activist Quanell X and community leaders were joined by members of the Houston Fire Department (HFD) at a recent town hall meeting to inform residents about the fires that have been deliberately set. They learned that multiple fires have occurred in the area dating back to December 2012.
A suspect, Dwight Herman Albert, was arrested earlier this month in connection with a fire in Sunnyside. HFD said Albert was not linked to other fires in the area, but the investigation continues.
Albert is a well-known member of both the Sunnyside and South Park communities and many residents are divided on if he is responsible for the fires.
“This man walks everywhere he goes,” said Pastor Byron Jones of Rock Christian Center. “Everyone knows him. If he had a gas can walking, everyone would have noticed that.”
Another area minister, Pastor K. Nickleberry Lilly of Charity Missionary Baptist Church, lost a property that held resale merchandise. “I believe the investigation is ongoing and we should let the fire department and arson investigators do what they do,” he said.
“Many in the community don’t believe this man is setting the fires,” added Quanell X. “After they arrested him, there was another fire two days later. We really don’t know what the truth is.”
Area residents plan to rebuild the damaged and destroyed properties and said it will be an ongoing process.
“We will come together as a community to assist and help with the individual needs of a person [affected by a fire],” Jones said.
“It destroyed two buildings and caused $100, 000 worth of damaged property,” Lilly said. “However, we will rebuild and take it one day at a time. We will continue to reach out and help people.”
Police and fire officials have advised those in the community to ensure they have working fire alarms within their homes. They also promote obtaining home and fire insurance so properties will be covered in case of an unforeseen event.
The above article and pictures were published in Volume 82, Number 38 (July 18, 2013) of the Defender Newspaper.