An anonymous donor has given Burnet County a $25,000 donation that can be used to help bring to justice the person or persons responsible for a string of suspected arsons in 2020.
Burnet County commissioners voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting to accept to donation, which will be offered as a reward for information which leads to an arrest and conviction, said County Judge James Oakley.
“The sole purpose of this money is to provide a reward to help catch those responsible for a string of arsons in Burnet County,” Oakley said. “My understanding is there have been 17 fires of unknown or suspicious origin that have happened since April 2020, with the last fire being one that destroyed the Mahomet Church in December.”
The cause of the Dec. 9 fire at the historic Mahomet Christian Church, 10451 FM 243 in northeast Burnet County, is still under investigation, but is being investigated as an arson, according to Burnet County Sheriff’s Capt. Chris Jett.
The Mahomet Christian Church was built in 1899 in the Mahomet community, after the congregation moved to the area from Sycamore Springs when their original church burned. The Mahomet site also served as the location of the Sycamore Springs School from 1898 to 1944.
An arson task force has been set up by local, regional and state agencies in order to pool their resources to find the culprits behind the blazes, which have also claimed an auction barn in Watson as well as unoccupied residences and abandoned buildings in unincorporated areas of Burnet County, the city of Burnet and the Lampasas area.
“This apparent series of fires is believed to have begun in late April of this year and has continued through to the present,” Jett said in a statement. “Four of those fires have occurred in the city of Burnet, two occurred in the city of Lampasas, and the remaining have occurred in the unincorporated areas of Burnet County.”
Task force members include BCSO deputies; the State Fire Marshal’s Office; local fire marshals from Burnet, Bertram and Lampasas; Texas DPS troopers; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Texas Rangers.
Oakley and Jett encouraged residents who have valid information and wish to receive the reward money to give their tips to the BCSO by calling 512-756-8080 or by emailing email@example.com. Tipsters’ identities will remain anonymous.
Callers may also call Hill Country Area CrimeStoppers at 1-866-756-8477 or hillcountryareacrime stoppers. com or the State Fire Marshal Tip Line at 1-877-434-7345.
The city of Burnet also has offered up to $10,000 in reward money for tips leading to the identification and prosecution of the person(s) responsible for fires in their city limits.
Staff writer Connie Swinney contributed to this report.
“This apparent series of fires is believed to have begun in late April of this year and has continued through to the present.”
— Chris Jett Captain, Burnet County Sheriff’s Office