An alleged serial arsonist who authorities say may be responsible for setting dozen of blazes that have terrorized the city of Houston in recent weeks has been arrested.
The suspect, 28-year-old Joshua Rauch, was arrested on Saturday after arson investigators scouring surveillance video spotted Rauch's car at the location of some of the fires, giving them enough probable cause to get approval from the Harris County District Attorney's office to place an electronic tracking device on his vehicle to follow his movements, officials said at a news conference.
Rauch has been linked to at least seven fires that have occurred in the Houston area, including several set in the city's popular Greater Heights neighborhood, but investigators said he allegedly confessed to setting other fires in the community.
"I can't stress enough how proud I am of our folks and the work that they have done in getting this very dangerous individual off the street as quickly as they did," Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena said at the news conference on Saturday.
Assistant Fire Chief Alfredo Martinez and fire investigator Alison Stein alleged that Rauch has been setting fires all over the Houston, burning vehicles, sheds and trash containers. No one has been injured in the blazes, most having occurred under the cover of night.
Martinez said the investigation started in earnest on Tuesday following a fire near a Houston business and another that same day at the University of Houston in the downtown area.
Stein said investigators reviewing surveillance video spotted a silver Ford Focus at both fire locations and identified Rauch as the owner of the vehicle.
"We have video with his vehicle and ... we have that vehicle also at other fire scenes, and with that reasonable suspicion we were allowed to go to the district attorney to put a tracking system on his vehicle," Stein said.
Stein declined to comment on the number of fires Rauch has allegedly confessed to or provide a possible motive for the arson rampage.
"Right now we are still in the process of questioning our suspect and he is confessing to multiple fires," Stein said.
She said investigators are still probing whether Rauch is linked to a series of fires on Oct. 4 in Houston Lazybrook neighborhood, in which Molotov cocktails were hurled into two residential properties on the same street. No one was injured in those blazes, officials said.
Stein said Rauch is currently facing second-degree felony arson charges in the seven incidents investigators have linked him to. She said the charges could be upgraded to first-degree arson if investigators learn Rauch targeted any occupied residences or houses of worship.
"I want to remind Houstonians that arson, no matter in what form, if it's committed in the city of Houston, the Houston Fire Department arson bureau will find you, we will arrest you and we will prosecute you," Pena said.
Rauch made his first court appearance on Saturday night, where a judge set his bond at $50,000. He was ordered to return to court for an arraignment on Monday.
Brendan Posterick, who lives in the Greater Heights neighborhood, said his car was one of several set ablaze early Thursday. Fire investigators and police and are probing if Rauch was responsible for the fire.
Posterick told ABC station KTRK-TV in Houston, that he looked out his window at 3 a.m. and saw his Toyota engulfed in flames. He said his girlfriend, Lauren Hale, immediately called 911.
"It was terrifying," Hale told KTRK. "I think I was shaking for probably the next four hours. I told him [Posterick) I was shaking to my core."