HARKER HEIGHTS — East Ball Road is a mix of one-story homes and aging trailer homes. It’s a scruffy neighborhood not far from the night clubs that dot East Veterans Memorial Boulevard; tall grass grows on some lawns intertwined with occasional litter.
But it isn’t the tall grass or discarded candy wrappers that have this neighborhood on edge: it’s the two houses that have burned down in recent weeks.
“Anybody would be concerned,” said Cody France, who lives across the street from the site of the most recent fire in the 100 block of East Ball Road. A charred skeleton of the small vacant home is all that remains after it mysteriously caught fire just before midnight on Aug. 29.
The same goes for the vacant mobile home that used to be in the same block. Shortly after 4 a.m. Aug. 21, firefighters arrived to see it 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 if the most recent fire is arson, but said 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, 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 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.
Neighborhood resident Nora Anderson 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,” Anderson said.
She grabbed a water hose and tried to dampen the grass and the side of her house, but luckily the fire didn’t spread. The neighbors on the other side of the burning house, 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.
No one the Killeen Daily Herald spoke to this week seemed to know who might be a suspect in the case. There is hope that it is not someone who lives in the neighborhood.
“I would just hate to think it’s somebody that lives here,” Christina France said.
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 1-800-729-8477. A $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest is being offered in the case.