‘Leads sought on unsolved arson cases’


Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Claudio K. Norita has vowed to pursue investigations once they get leads into the numerous unsolved arson cases in 2011 and 2012 that occurred in the southern part of Saipan.

“I don’t leave things unresolved,” said Norita, who is a former police officer and former Department of Public Safety commissioner.

Norita said DPS earlier assigned some firefighters to the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation to investigate these arson cases.

“We are taking those firefighters back. We are taking the investigations back,” he said.

Currently, there are six firefighters at DFEMS that inspect or investigate suspected arson cases.

“We need to put more people in there,” Norita said.

To his understanding, there are no further evidences in these arson cases to move them forward. However, once information comes in, they will open up the arson cases, he said.

Norita said he can’t put people on six or seven unresolved arson cases when there are no suspects or no leads.

“But once there are leads—people call Crime Stoppers for example, they give us the lead—then definitely we will respond to that. Right now there are no leads, they exhausted all the leads and all those investigations,” he said.

Norita said everything depending upon the leads that are provided or they run into.

He said the Fire Department has no specific unsolved arson unit, but they have investigation and inspection units doing fire code inspection and fire investigation.

Norita said he does not have the manpower to commit one or two investigators or firefighters to just look into unsolved cases.

“Again, if there are leads, we would definitely open those cases up. But as long as there are no leads we are stuck,” he added.

In 2012, DPS fire investigators confirmed that 11 fires that occurred from November 2011 to February 2012 in the southern part of Saipan were all arson-related incidents.

On the month of November 2011, three fires believed to be intentionally set off broke out, including two that occurred on the same day.

In the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2011, fire engulfed the former Tokyo Tower Club on Beach Road, Chalan Kanoa. That night, a blaze razed the former Wonderful Carwash on Beach Road, Chalan Kanoa, next to Sugar Dock.

Two days later, The Vegetable Stand/Harvest Market located near the former Sun Leader now called Toha Market was set on fire. The blaze spread and damaged the adjacent Harvest Market.

In January 2012, six arson-related fires happened.

On Jan. 8, 2012, the former Spicy Thai Restaurant in San Antonio was set on fire.

On Jan. 12, 2012, the former building of garment manufacturer MGM across Hopwood Junior High School in Chalan Piao was set on fire. The fire damaged the storage area on the first floor of a three-story building.

At 11pm the same day, a small room located next to Monte Carlo building was also set on fire.

Two days later at 2:47am, a building owned by Dr. Cabrera located in Chalan Kanoa was burned.

At 5:36am that same day, an abandoned building in Chalan Kanoa south of the U.S. Post Office was burned. The fire spread and razed an occupied structure where several people had been living. One child was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.

That night, the office of Mount Carmel School president/principal was burglarized and vandalized. The principal’s desk was set on fire.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com

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