Fire investigators confirm a serial arsonist is targeting elderly residents in Cottonwood

The Shasta County Arson Task Force investigates early morning fire in Cottonwood, August 31

Residents say they are staying vigilant as fire investigators have confirmed a serial arsonist is targeting the elderly in Cottonwood. In the most recent strike, an 86-year-old woman died in a fire at her home on Sunday. The woman's death is being investigated as a homicide.

The Shasta County Sheriff's Office is going door to door to homes in the Cottonwood area as they are seeking more information about nine suspicious fires which have sparked over the course of three months. The Shasta County Arson Task Force is investigating the fires are a result of a serial arsonist.

The autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday morning for the 86-year-old woman who was killed inside her Cottonwood home Sunday. Wednesday evening, the woman was positively identified as 86-year-old Barcie Arlene Miller of Cottonwood.

Fire investigators said the Cottonwood Fire Protection District received the call that the woman's home at 3320 Willow Street was on fire at 4:40 a.m. Sunday. Law enforcement said the woman lived alone in the home.

When firefighters arrived they found the elderly woman's body inside the burned home. The fire that sparked the destruction of the Cottonwood home and the death of this woman has been linked to eight other suspicious fires in the area.

Shortly after firefighters responded to the fire on Willow Street, another fire alarmed the Cottonwood Fire District.

At 5:07 a.m. a fire was reported at 3460 Hickory Street in Cottonwood. The fire was quickly extinguished and contained to a small shed behind the home.

Neighbors in the area said they are scared as they believe a serial arsonist is targeting the elderly.

The fire Sunday was at least the third fire at a home belonging to an elderly person who lives alone.

In early September, firefighters had to break down the door at an elderly woman's home to rescue her from a fire.

Just days later, a 98-year-old veteran lost his home and was able to get out just in time.

The cause of both of those fires was determined to be suspicious.

According to Cottonwood Fire Chief, Bill Morgan, investigators believe the arsonist is striking between 12:00 a.m.-5:00 a.m.

The Shasta County Sheriff's Office recommends all residents in the affected Cottonwood area utilize exterior lighting at night and if your property is equipped with video surveillance to ensure it is recording and operational.

Officials said if any Cottonwood residents have surveillance video of suspicious people on their property since June, they need to call the Major Crimes Unit as it may be relevant to their investigation.

Officials are also encouraging anyone who knows anything about the string of fires or the homicide to contact them at 530-245-6135.

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