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      City forms task force, offers $25k reward in suspicious fires

      Charleston mayor Joe Riley makes the announcement about the task force on Thursday. (Nikki Gaskins/WCIV)

      CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Five fires since June 25. City leaders are asking for the public's help.

      Today Charleston mayor Joe Riley announced a $25 thousand reward for information that leads to a conviction in the recent string of fires that officials believe were intentionally set.

      Riley said $20 thousand came from the city's pocket, the rest from South Carolina Insurance News.

      The fires downtown are a big concern, and according to officials, they have been a concern since 2003. Fire Marshall Mike Julazadeh said there have been 56 suspicious fires in the downtown area since 2003. Many started the same way -- on the porch during the dark hours of the morning.

      "The peaking time appears approximately 3:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.," Julazadeh said.

      In addition to announcing the award for an arrest, Mayor Riley also announced the forming of a new task force.

      Made of 16 people from various agencies, the task force has been meeting weekly to review information and canvas the area. In addition to the task force's work, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said his department will set up patrols.

      "People should expect to be accounted by officers and they should expect officers to come up to them and ask them questions," Chief Mullen said. "...We're not going to rest until we catch them."

      IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON THESE STRING OF FIRES, YOU'RE ASKED TO CALL 1-800-92-ARSON.

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