Columbia requests federal help to investigate 14 fires


COLUMBIA (AP) - Federal authorities have been asked to help investigate after 14 fires have been reported within a few miles of each other in less than three months in South Carolina's capital city.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said a house fire around 2 p.m. Tuesday was the latest blaze in neighborhoods just north and northeast of downtown Columbia.

Holbrook says authorities have determined five of the 14 fires reported since April 21 were intentionally set and are still investigating the others. The chief says investigators have found similar evidence at many of the fires.

Holbrook said in a statement he has asked state agents and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to join the investigation.

Authorities say many of the fires have burned vacant homes.