Teens suspected in string of west Houston fires

Xavier McKnight charged with arson

HOUSTON - Investigators said two teens have been linked to several dangerous fires in the Memorial area.

Xavier McKnight, 19, was arrested late Tuesday, along with a 16-year-old. Both have been accused of starting nearly a dozen fires since December.

On Thursday, fire officials gave details about the investigation that led to the arrests.

"By the end of January, we figured out we had either a serial arsonist or multiple people setting the fires," said Robert Carnes, an arson investigator with the Houston Fire Department.

Investigators said McKnight and the other teen are responsible for 11 fires. Some of those fires were in occupied homes and others were in Dumpsters, officials said. What worried fire investigators the most were the fires set inside stairwells, which could have potentially killed people trying to escape.

"How somebody didn't get hurt is a miracle to me," said Carnes.

Fire investigators said they were finally able to identify the two teens with the help of police at the Spring Branch Independent School Distirct. That's where, officials said, the pair attended school before dropping out.

"For whatever reasons they do it, it's very hard to determine," said Chuck Brawner with the Spring Branch ISD Police Department. "It's very unfortunate for them, but now they have to pay the consequences."

McKnight has been charged with arson in connection with a fire on Jan.6 at the Sheffield Square apartments. Fire crews said they'd been called to the same complex earlier that evening after reports that a phone book was on fire.

McKnight is being held on $30,000 bond.

Investigators estimate the total amount in damages from these fires at more that $1 million.

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