RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Richmond Police have arrested an alleged arsonist. Detectives said 51-year old Irvin Conway broke into two apartments Friday morning and set them on fire, all in less than two hours. He's now facing two counts each of arson and burglary.
Friday morning at one o'clock, fire engine sirens shattered the quiet on the 1400 block of Grove Avenue. Luck was on firefighters' side. The blaze was in a vacant unit in the building.
About an hour and a half later and less than a half mile away, the fire department got another call. This time it was to the 1100 block of West Franklin Street and a building full of Virginia Commonwealth University students. At 3 a.m. Stefanie Brocker was asleep in her first floor apartment.
"I really didn't know what was going on until I heard other doors being banged on and firemen yelling 'fire, fire, get out,'" she recalled.
In their three day investigation, police and fire marshals collected eyewitness statements, forensic evidence and surveillance footage the state lab was able to enhance. They said this led them to Irvin Conway Sunday night.
Detectives are still unsure of a motive in the case or why Conway allegedly chose those two specific locations and not any of the dozens of apartment buildings in between.
"We don't believe they were targeted, that there's any tie to him to those locations," said Richmond Police Capt. Steve Drew. "We believe it was a random act of those two apartments there."
The Franklin Street fire was in a second floor apartment. The tenant had already gone home for the summer. The only injury was to a police officer, who suffered from smoke inhalation.
"Who knows how bad it could have gone and certainly we know what it can do and we're glad that it didn't proceed into that," said Capt. Drew.
Investigators will compare these incidents to other arsons in the metro area to find any similarities. Right now, they are not saying Conway is a suspect in any other fires.