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Erik Burgess, Published October 02 2012

Alleged Moorhead Dumpster fire starter called 911 on himself

MOORHEAD – The man arrested in connection with a string of Dumpster fires here reportedly called 911 after starting some fires in order to watch the emergency response, according to charges filed Tuesday in Clay County District Court.

Steven Edward Chenoweth, 38, was charged with 13 felony counts of arson after investigators tied him to that many Dumpster fires in south Moorhead between July 23 and Sept. 29.

Each count carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Chenoweth is being held in the Clay County Jail on $30,000 bail.

According to the charges, Chenoweth admitted starting 13 or 14 fires and told investigators he likes fires and the excitement that goes with police and firefighters responding. Court documents state that Chenoweth’s wife told investigators she suspected her husband was responsible for some of the fires because they seemed to occur while she was away from home.

Chenoweth’s wife also told police that Chenoweth sometimes would find fireworks at his workplace and bring them home. Investigators found that some of the fires had been started using fireworks.

Chenoweth was arrested Sunday night after a detective saw him lean into a Dumpster near the 1000 block of 18th Street South and walk away as smoke started to rise, according to the charges. The detective was in the area because multiple fires had been reported there. All 13 fires Chenoweth is accused of starting occurred in Dumpsters along 17th and 18th streets south near Romkey Park near his residence, according to court documents.

Most of the Dumpsters were valued at between $300 and $1,000, and at least one was worth more than $1,000, the charges state.

Several unsolved fires – including a Dumpster fire reported Monday in the 2400 block of Fourth Avenue North, after Chenoweth’s arrest – remain under investigation. Police said there’s no correlation between those fires and the fires Chenoweth is accused of setting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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