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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
In Toledo, the crime of arson tends to lead the morning news more often than one might believe.
Once, a vacant apartment building on 5th Street was set on fire twice in one night.
As firefighters worked to smother the flames, Raymond Marsh watched over his family. The Toledo native lives with his brother, sister, and her children including a 6 month old baby. He's says living near the flames erupting night after night is traumatic.
"There's been a fire right there, and here, and over there, and there too. I hope it don't happen again. I hope it don't happen again. They're trying so it won't happen again," said Raymond Marsh, a witness to an arson.
Central, north, south, east, west... arson has been a citywide problem in Toledo for years.
Lt. Matthew Hertzfeld with the Toledo Fire Department says the time is now to take action against fire setters.
"We really need the people in these neighborhoods - wherever it is in this city - to take back those streets, take back your neighborhood and work with us to help put these arsonists in jail," said Hertzfeld.
Officials are making arrests, but not enough to stop the crimes from happening. Since 2009, 138 people have been taken into custody on arson-related charges.
-In 2009 there were 37 arrests. -In 2010 there were 35 arrests. -In 2011 there were 44 arrests. -In 2012 there were 22 arrests.
While the total number for arsons set in Toledo is still being compiled for 2012, Toledo's total arson count tops that of Ohio's most populated cities. In 2010, Toledo led the nation.
-In 2009 there were 511 counts of arson. -In 2010 there were 494 counts of arson. -In 2011 there were 526 counts of arson. -In 2012 there were more than 221 counts of arson.
Each criminally set fire can carry thousands of dollars in damages, which are not only costly attacks on the city of Toledo, but hard on those who fight the blazes.
And firefighters take it personally. Chronic arson a dangerous problem for a city to have.
"These arsonists just don't care about the personnel on this job. They don't have a clue as to what we do on this job. All it takes is one time to get hurt," said Manny Jaimez, a 23-year veteran firefighter with Toledo.
Arsonists have made Toledo their playground for multiple reasons: to seek revenge, vanity, crime concealment and financial gain.
But where will they strike next?
At run down, boarded up vacant houses, plywood covers the front door and trash litters the backyard. While it may be abandoned and empty, it stands out, not only as a public safety hazard, but as a haven for would-be arsonists. It's where the majority of arsons take place.
"People living in that neighborhood that are tired of seeing that abandoned house, I would certainly say that's a definite possibility that they are lighting those structures to get them torn down, but, again, that's a crime," said Hertzfeld.
Arson has left its mark his family. For that, Marsh has one message:
"Whoever you are, this is totally ridiculous. You need to be caught and you need to be caught now."
The Toledo Fire Department urges everyone to make sure they have a working smoke alarm in their home.
To report a suspected arson in Toledo, call 419-245-1131.
Ed. Note: The 70% figure referenced in the video above refers to all structure fires the Toledo fire department responds to... not total fires in the city.