Blazes spark worry in county

Smoke hung heavy in the air Saturday morning after firefighters finished dousing the last of six fires that had been intentionally set over the course of 48 hours.

Every firefighter in the Jamestown Fire Department was called in Friday night and early Saturday morning, when the worst of the destruction took place. Volunteer firefighters from Celoron, Falconer, Lakewood, Kiantone and Fluvanna fought fires alongside their city brethren. Wednesday’s fire in Falconer and the weekend’s arsons in Jamestown proved that the mutual aid system works exactly as it should. It’s hard to imagine a worse situation than what firefighters saw last week, yet the first responders once again were up to the task in the most difficult of circumstances. Fire protection in our county is strong even if the ranks of volunteer fire departments has thinned over the years.

The arson fires in Jamestown are a blazing reminder that arson is a continuing problem in Jamestown. In 2011, there were 22 arson cases in the city, followed by 25 in 2012; 13 in 2013; 20 in 2014; 31 in 2015; and 19 in 2016. This year is off to a bad start.

Each and every one of these fires threatened the lives and property of neighbors and put hundreds of firefighters at risk. Neighbors have every right to be on edge until the person, or persons, responsible are caught. When they are, we urge Patrick Swanson, Chautauqua County district attorney, to follow a protocol he set up earlier for gun crimes. Under Swanson’s Gun Done policy, those who commit a crime with a gun or carry a firearm illegally will not get any kind of negotiations or plea offer. Instead, they’ll be held accountable to what the law prescribes the penalty to be.

Swanson must be just as tough with those charged with setting arson fires.