Setting fires is not a joke, it’s arson

By Gus Bode

By first grade, children have learned not to play with fires.

Soon after, they learn they certainly shouldn’t start them.

But a local Carbondale man, among others in the area, never seemed to learn these lessons. Or at least the lessons never sunk in.


Zachary James Heinz, 20, was arrested and charged with attempted arson after two Carbondale police officers saw him setting a fire to a dumpster at Lewis Park Apartments.

When Heinz was arrested, he was found to be in position of alcohol.

Heinz knew that if he got caught, he would have two major strikes against him. So, he chose to run from the officers.

So instead of two strikes, he now has more.

To make matters worse, attempted arson is a felony.

Heinz was arrested, made bail and was released. But his day in court will come, and, if convicted, he will have to suffer the consequences.

Unfortunately, this incident is not a rarity,


In fact, Carbondale Police Department Deputy Chief Steve Odum has met with Lewis Park’s landlord to discuss the numerous dumpster fires that have plagued the complex.

Heinz was charged with attempted arson, reckless conduct, resisting a peace officer and underage possession of alcohol.

Was all that worth the “fun” of setting a dumpster ablaze?

We certainly hope not.

Every action comes with a consequence whether it be good or bad. We all learned in first grade that unless you are cooking food at a campsite, fire is bad.

And purposefully setting a fire is stupid – because they spread.

Odum said dumpster fires are more dangerous than people realize because they pose a real danger to any parked cars – or other things and/or people – near them.

And even if the arsonist doesn’t care about property or the value of human life, the rest of us, including the police, do.

Carbondale police have proved their commitment to putting an end to this trend by charging Heinz to the fullest extent of the law.

This should be a statement to all “pranksters” who think their dangerous jokes are funny.

And worse than any punishment the law could provide is living with the terrible consequences of a deadly fire that you know you started.

In 1992, a tragic arson fire killed five SIUC students and injured eight others.

It was a cold December night when flames spread rapidly through The Pyramid apartment complex that housed mostly international students.

Speculation pointed to a pile of clothes or laundry that was left outside of the door of one of the rooms as a starting point for the arsonist.

Former Carbondale Police Chief Don Strom told the Daily Egyptian in 1997 that he did not believe the fire was started with the intent of killing someone.

Some students jumped from the burning building, receiving injuries that left them hospitalized. Four of the dead students were found in positions indicating they were tying to escape when they were overcome by smoke.

Now, a memorial sits near Campus Lake honoring those who died in that fire.

Police named a suspect, but, even after more than a decade of investigation, no one has been charged.

What someone might have considered a prank at the time killed five residents of The Pyramids apartment complex.

That tragic night 11 years ago was not funny.

Fortunately, Friday night’s fire did not devastate the community like The Pyramids fire.

But it could have.