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San Jose Residents Keep Watch For Serial Arsonist

SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Residents in several San Jose neighborhoods pledge to keep watch through the night as the search continues for a serial arsonist suspected in more than a dozen fires since Wednesday.

The arsonist struck Greater St. John Baptist Church on East San Antonio Street twice over the past week. In both occasions, a converted trailer used for Bible classes was set on fire. The trailer is no longer usable.

Pastor Greg Nolan said the fires are not stopping his congregation. “We do like they used to do in the Old South, hold church in the parking lot if we have to. We are gonna have church,” Nolan told KPIX 5.

The fires at the church on Wednesday and Sunday are two of the 13 fires authorities attribute to the arsonist. Authorities said the suspect has been active in the neighborhoods east of Downtown San Jose between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Police used surveillance video and witness statements to produce a sketch of a person of interest in the case. No one has been arrested as of Monday evening, but the sketch may be having the effect of slowing or stopping the arsonist.

“The best part is, within the last 24 hours, we have not had any fires that were related to arson,” said Capt. Cleo Doss of the San Jose Fire Department.

Doss said the sketch also triggered more tips from the public. “We’re still aggressively and actively investigating this case,” he said.

City Councilman Sam Liccardo’s office has helped neighbors organize and form overnight watch groups, who plan to stay up and keep a lookout during the early morning hours. Other neighbors are taking action to fix street lights that are out, along with keeping their holiday lights on for now, so the arsonist does not have the cover of darkness.

“I think it’s a good idea. It always helps to work with your neighbors and keep the neighborhood safe. I guess the police are also stepping up and patrolling more too, so that’s all good,” neighbor Keith Denison told KPIX 5.

The union representing San Jose firefighters has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist.

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