LAWRENCE, Kan. — Police arrested a woman Thursday suspected of setting fires at four Lawrence businesses overnight.

Officers responded to a fire near N. Second and Brown streets shortly after 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Lawrence police said as they responded to that fire, they were also notified about multiple reports of dumpster fires in the same area.

Police worked with the fire department to determine a 19-year-old woman set the fires at four separate businesses.

Officers arrested the woman less than a mile away behind Johnny’s Tavern in North Lawrence shortly before 11 p.m. She’s expected in court Friday afternoon.

Owners at Lunar Graphics on N. Second Street likely suffered the worst damage. The rear exterior wall shows two large charred marks where trash receptacles usually sit.

One employee told FOX4 flames from the fire didn’t get inside, but they set off the building’s sprinkler system, which caused hundreds of thousand of dollars in damaged machines and materials.

  • Fire crews respond to a suspected arson fire in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 16, 2022. (Photo provided by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical)
  • Fire crews respond to a suspected arson fire in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 16, 2022. (Photo provided by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical)
  • Fire crews respond to a suspected arson fire in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 16, 2022. (Photo provided by Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical)
  • A series of suspected arson fires in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 16, 2022, is under investigation. (Photo by Sean McDowell/FOX4)
  • A series of suspected arson fires in Lawrence, Kansas, on Nov. 16, 2022, is under investigation. (Photo by Sean McDowell/FOX4)

Business operators believe they know who did it.

“That was meanness,” Jan Bishop, who owns the business next door, said.

Bishop’s business, Skin Illustrations, is attached to Lunar Graphics. She’s among the North Lawrence business operators who point to the city-endorsed homeless camp, which sits a half-mile to the south. Some merchants have complained about trouble that’s come from those tents.

“It should have been taken down a long time ago. We’re just enabling people not to get a home or a job,” Bishop said. “They think they’re just burning a business. They’re burning our home, too, and our livelihood.”

Kevin Joles, a division chief with Lawrence Fire Department, said these incidents of arson are dangerous, but no one was injured, and the sprinklers at Lunar Graphix did their job, thankfully.

“It was an exterior fire that did a lot of damage. However, it penetrated the external structure and made it inside the structure, which set off the sprinkler system, which saved a significant amount of the rest of the building,” Joles said.

Joles recommended merchants keep their dumpsters locked — or away from their buildings — to be on the safe side. 

The Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical team is investigating the arsons.

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