FORT WORTH — Eric Baker's family has had a presence in Fort Worth's Historic Southside neighborhood for the past 100 years. The Baker Chapel AME Church on Humboldt and Illinois bears his family's name.
But it was last year that stood out for the wrong kind of reasons.
House fires, one after the other, left behind charred debris and fear.
"Why is this happening; who is up to this?" Baker remembered wondering. "We've already got enough problems down here. That was the last thing we needed was fires."
Friday, George Reibert, who authorities said has spent his entire adult life setting fires, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for setting two of the house fires in the Historic Southside.
"It is very rare that you come across this prolific of a fire setter," said Fort Worth Fire Department arson investigator Brad Sims.
Sims, along with arson investigator Chris Bowden, believe that because they consider Reibert a suspect in as many as 13 vacant house fires that happened in one neighborhood from June to November 2015. They said they suspect that number could go as high as 20.
"There’s a lot of reasons people commit arson," Bowden said of the psychology behind the crime. "It could be excitement. It could be vengeance."
The investigators said Reibert was previously convicted of fire crimes in Louisiana and in Oklahoma, where he'd once been a firefighter.
"He enjoyed it. There were some fires in Oklahoma when he was a volunteer," Bowden explains. "He started being the first one on scene and they started looking at him a lot more frequently."
Video evidence and community involvement played a large role in catching Reibert, who investigators said might be Fort Worth's worst arsonist yet.
"He's done a lot of damage to this area," Eric Baker said. "And the best way I can say is we just pray that he's taken off the street and we don’t have to worry about him anymore."
The worry now is what to do about the blight his crimes left behind.
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