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Savannah Fire releases photo of person suspected of igniting string of downtown fires overnight

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:39 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:20 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - UPDATE: The Savannah Fire Department has released photos of the individual suspected of igniting three fires overnight in downtown Savannah.

The three fires investigators believe this person could be linked to all happened around the Savannah Visitor Center parking lot. Out of those three downtown fires, six vehicles were damaged, including a tour bus.

Anyone with information can call the Savannah Fire Department at 912.644.5959 or the Georgia Arson Hotline, which awards up to $10,000 for information leading to a conviction, at 1.800.282.5804.

The owner of Freedom Trail Tour has been in business since 2001, primarily using this one bus. And Wednesday night, his tour bus went up in flames.

Brown says investigators told him it appeared someone got inside the tour bus and poured gas or some kind of accelerant throughout, before lighting it on fire. Brown adds he doesn’t know for certain why someone would’ve targeted his vehicle, but to whoever did, he has this message.

“And the person, if you’re looking, I mean…I don’t wish you no ill, I don’t wish you no…I don’t have hard feelings toward you. I’m kind of over this now. I’m gonna pray for the person, and I would with that person come to Christ. I mean, these are the times we’re living in, people doing all these crazy things now. But we need to get closer to God,” Brown said.

Brown says he is in the process of having a crowd funding site set up to help buy a new tour bus. In the mean time, he says other tour companies are chipping in to help him keep his Freedom Trail Tour going.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help Brown.

Several suspicious fires from overnight in downtown Savannah are under investigation.

The Savannah Fire Department says it responded to a bus on fire in the Savannah Visitor’s Center parking lot on Louisville Road just before 11 p.m. Wednesday. They say that fire also damaged three other vehicles nearby and one person with a gas can was seen leaving the area.

Savannah Fire got another call one minute later about a porch fire in the 300 block of Purse Street. They say a realtor sign had been set on fire on a resident’s porch and they were able to put it out using a water can. And at 11:15 p.m., SFD was called back to the Visitor’s Center parking lot where a commercial tour van parked in an area near Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard was on fire. This fire also damaged one other vehicle parked nearby.

Then, around 2:40 a.m. Thursday, Savannah Fire says it extinguished a shed fire at West 36th and Jefferson streets.

The owner of the tour van that burned was at the scene Thursday morning and spoke to WTOC about his loss.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow you know what I mean, this is my everything. It took me a number of years to build up what I have. I had to work odd jobs and whatever to keep this going. We had the pandemic..I survived that, you know what I mean. The hurricanes, Matthew...I survived that. And to come and see that this is all I have now, and it’s just, wow, you know. This is a part of me, you know. It’s not a person it’s material, but then again, I put so much effort into this and so many years trying to build it up, and to see what it has become, it’s like...yeah,” said Johnnie Brown, Owner of Freedom Trail Tour.

SFD is looking into the cause of all four of these fires.

SFD Fire Chief Derik Minard held a news conference Thursday around noon to give the latest update on the fires. He said the investigation is still in its early stages but confirmed the fourth fire that occurred on West 36th Street was unrelated to the earlier fires. He said that fire was at a detached garage that was locked and firefighters had to force entry to extinguish the flames.

“At this time all Savannah Fire investigator resources have been devoted to these investigations. The investigation is still in the early stages, and Savannah Fire officials cannot speculate about motives or connections related to these fires or any previous fires,” said Chief Minard.

Chief Minard say they are still looking into reports of a person seen in the area of the earlier fires with what appeared to be a gas can but could not yet confirm that. He is asking anyone with information about these fires to contact the Arson Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

Watch Thursday’s news conference below:

Savannah Fire Update

#WATCH: Savannah Fire chief providing an update on string of suspicious fires that happened overnight. >>> https://bit.ly/31htW4y

Posted by WTOC-TV on Thursday, December 2, 2021

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