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Published October 01 2012

Moorhead man arrested in connection with Dumpster fires tells police he likes the excitement of setting fires

MOORHEAD – A man arrested Sunday in connection with a rash of Dumpster fires in Moorhead’s Romkey Park neighborhood reportedly told police he set them because he likes fires and the excitement that goes with police and firefighters responding, Lt. Tory Jacobson said.

A detective investigating the string of Dumpster fires – 17 since late June – was conducting surveillance in the neighborhood when he saw 38-year-old Steven Edward Chenoweth set fire to a Dumpster near an apartment building in the 1000 block of 18th Street South at about 11:08 p.m., Jacobson said.

Chenoweth was arrested without incident and taken to the Clay County Jail.

The detective linked Chenoweth to 13 Dumpster fires, and police recommend that Chenoweth be charged with that many counts of third-degree arson, Jacobson said.

Chenoweth, who lives in the Romkey neighborhood, allegedly used sparklers and Roman candle fireworks to set the fires, Jacobson said.

In many of the incidents, the Dumpster fires were set within a few feet of occupied dwellings. Police said it was fortunate no one was injured.

“We certainly recognized it as a serious problem,” Jacobson said Monday.

The detective decided to stake out the area Sunday based on his analysis of the previous fires, Jacobson said.

“It was definitely a pattern that he was kind of able to conclude,” he said.

Police plan to seek restitution for the damage caused by the fires and the cost of responding to them, he said.

Several unsolved fires – including a Dumpster fire reported at 2:16 a.m. Monday in the 2400 block of Fourth Avenue North, after Chenoweth’s arrest and not in the Romkey Park area – remain under investigation. Jacobson said there’s no correlation between those fires and the fires Chenoweth is accused of setting.

A message left for Chenoweth at the jail was not returned.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528