FARMINGTON — Four suspicious fires in a south Farmington neighborhood in recent weeks have caused more than $120,000 in damage to private property.
And it took firefighters more than 100 hours to put out and investigate the blazes.
Raymond Montano, a 43-year-old Farmington man, was arrested last week on suspicion of arson. He was charged with a second-degree felony for allegedly starting a fire Oct. 1 that destroyed two unoccupied mobile homes, two sheds and a camper.
That fire started shortly after midnight near South Butler Avenue and Poplar Street and was reignited at 7:30 a.m.
Montano was arrested after a relative told police that Montano allegedly admitted to setting other fires in the neighborhood, according to court documents. Police found Montano staring at the destruction at 9:30 a.m. the day of the fire, court documents stated.
The fire caused an estimated $42,000 worth of damage, and 16 firefighters spent more than 57 hours working at the scene, according to Farmington Fire Department records.
Farmington police Detective Sgt. Brandon Lane said Montano is still a suspect in three prior fires in the neighborhood. He has not been charged with arson in connection to those fires.
"We're considering him a suspect and continuing the investigation to see what, if any, evidence still exists and if the evidence can link him to those fires," Lane said.
Fire department records reveal three other mobile home fires in the neighborhood near South Butler Avenue, south of Bloomfield Highway. All of them happened at night in vacant homes without active utilities.
Two fires were on Aug. 18. The first was at 10:22 p.m. on Sycamore Street. A double-wide mobile home was partially destroyed, causing an estimated $65,000 worth of damage. Fire Marshal Robert Popa ruled later that night that the fire was "incendiary," a term used for fires people start on purpose.
Popa said the fire had two points of origin, and a flammable liquid was used at each starting point. Popa said fires with multiple points of origin are often a sign of arson.
Just 40 minutes after that fire started, another fire started less than a mile away in an empty mobile home on South Monterey Street. Firefighters put out that blaze after it did an estimated $15,000 of property damage, according to fire department records.
Firefighters put in about 20 total man hours during each of the Aug. 18 fires, according to city records.
Montano allegedly told a relative that police officers who responded to South Monterey Street fire questioned and released him, according to court documents.
On Sept. 4, a fire was started near Peach Street and South Butler Avenue. Vines near a Dugan Production site burned and damaged a trailer on the business' property. The fire department didn't estimate any property damage. Firefighters worked about 10 hours during the incident.
Popa said the Sycamore Street fire is the only one of the four suspicious fires that investigators have designated as incendiary. But that designation requires a significant amount of evidence, he said. The causes of the other three fires have been ruled "undetermined."Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.