Despite the 100-degree heat on Labor Day, several folks on East Ball Road were outside working on chores or cars, and others were sitting in the shade in lawn chairs. While the residents in this north Harker Heights neighborhood are friendly and talkative, there has been a cloud of concern hovering during the past few weeks.
It’s all because of mysterious fires that have destroyed two uninhabited homes since Aug. 21.
“Anybody would be concerned,” said Cody France, who lives across the street from the 100 block of East Ball Road, the site of the most recent fire. A charred skeleton of the small home is all that remains after it mysteriously caught fire just before midnight on Aug. 29. No one had lived there for years.
It’s a similar scenario to be the mobile home that used be on the same block. While someone had lived there in recent months, the home was vacant when shortly after 4 a.m. Aug. 21, firefighters arrived to see it fully engulfed in flames.
That fire was intentionally set, officials said. That same structure was set on fire the week earlier; however, firefighters were able to douse the flames before they caused much damage.
Officials are not saying for sure that the most recent fire on East Ball Road is arson, but it is suspicious, especially with the other fires.
With three mysterious fires, two vacant houses reduced to ash and one or more suspected arsonists on the loose, according to officials, some residents on East Ball Road are taking extra precautions.
“I’ve been thinking about putting a camera out here,” said France, adding the neighborhood isn’t terribly crime-ridden but it does have its share of “drugs and drunks,” mainly the occasional spillover from the nearby nightclubs.
France said he recently put up new outdoor floodlights, and he and his wife, Christina, are paying a little more attention when Zeus — their full-grown Rottweiler — barks at unknown sounds in the night.
Nora Anderson, who lives next door to the destroyed home, is concerned, too. On the night of last week’s fire, she walked out of her house to find plumes of smoke coming from the vacant house.
“As I got on the phone with 9-1-1, that’s when the windows busted out,” said Anderson, adding the shattering windows were like small explosions.
She grabbed a water hose and tried to dampen the grass and the side of her house, but luckily the fire didn’t spread there. The neighbors on the other side, however, weren’t so lucky. The elderly couple who live there had to be evacuated and, while they were able to return, burn marks can be seen on the side of the house.
Many folks in the neighborhood are wondering what’s going on, and there is concern other houses could go up in flames, Anderson said. There is at least one other vacant house on the block — an old blue-and-white trailer.
No one the Harker Heights Herald spoke to this week seemed to know who might be a suspect in the case.
“I would just hate to think it’s somebody that lives here,” Christina France said. Her husband suspects it might be teenagers or children, but he doesn’t know for sure.
Whoever the perpetrator is, residents want them stopped right away.
“I hope they catch them,” Anderson said.
The Harker Heights Fire Department, along with help from Killeen, Temple, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are investigating the fires. Those with information should call the fire department at (254) 699-2699 or Crime Stoppers at (254) 526-8477 or (800) 729-8477. A $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest is being offered in the case.