State and local law officers gathered at the farm house that’s featured in the movie “Bridges of Madison County” Wednesday to highlight “Arson Awareness Week.” “Francesca’s House” as it is called by the locals, sits among trees adorned with golden and red fall leaves looking just as it did in the movie except for the big black fire scar up the northwest corner of the structure. State Fire Marshal Jim Kenkel says law officers need help from the public to find the person who set fire to the famous home. Kenkel says they’re also seeking help in finding the arsonists in seven other cases. He says they want to call attention to the Cedar Bridge fire in the Winterset area one year ago and the recent fire at the Hogback Bridge last month, the fire at a covered bridge in Keokuk County in September. There are also four unsolved arson fires at churches and a shelter in Hancock and Worth Counties dating back toJuly and August of 2000. Kenkel says they’d planned on asking for help before Monday’s arson fire at the high-profile “Francesca’s House.” He says this is “Fire Prevention Week” and he says part of the prevention is getting the public to call in information that helps investigators find the people who set some of the fires. Kenkel asks anyone with any information on any of the fires to call the state arson hotline number at: 800-532-1459. Madison County Sheriff Paul Welch agrees that tips from the public are important in solving the crimes. He says they need the public support as the investigators are only as good as the leads that come in. Welch says they have gotten lots of calls in the latest fire, but need more.He says some of the information is ideas and thoughts they can’t work with. He says they’re looking for solid information, such as things people may’ve heard or information they may know about the fires. Welch was asked if the county is taking extra precautions in light of the recent fires. He says they’ve chosen not to discuss any additional security measures. He does say they’ve asked the public to drive by the bridges and keep track of them and report any suspicious activity.State officials offer a one-thousand dollar reward for information that leads to an arson conviction via the state arson hotline. There’s a five-thousand dollar A-T-F reward, and a 20-thousand dollar local reward being offered in the Madison County cases.
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