LOGANVILLE -- In a patchwork of Loganville subdivisions collectively called "Range Heights," the pleasantries of summer -- sprinklers, bicycles and pick-up basketball games -- are commingling with more disconcerting sights: cordoning tape, arson investigators and the scorched carcasses of homes.
On Friday afternoon, a fire caused interior damages to a one-story, corner-lot home that sits near a neighborhood entrance. Firefighters tackled it in a few minutes, sparing the home the fate of two others down the street.
Given that three arson fires had been recorded in Range Heights in the last two months, investigators were called in. Friday's fire, they quickly determined, was also "incendiary in nature," said Fire Department spokesman Lt. Colin Rhoden.
Neighbors sighed as yellow tape encircled a third property, where a family had just moved out Sunday, in this neighborhood of roughly 200 homes. The fire is serving as another reason to bring the diverse, blue-collar community together.
Rhoden said arson investigators are working to develop a suspect and have dotted crimes scenes with flyers that advertise $10,000 rewards.
"The arson flyers are working," Rhoden said. "Neighbors are helping investigators."
Two house fires in June -- in the 2400 block of Range Heights Terrace and the 3700 block of Red Rose Court -- had already been ruled arson. Neighbors said the first arson fire involved a storage building behind a house. Ironically, the neighborhood hugs a Gwinnett County fire station on Rosebud Road.
All three homes were recently vacated. Fire officials said the first two homes, which remain as piles of rubble a few yards from each other, were foreclosures.
"It's like whoever does this knows the houses are vacant, and they do this right after the (occupants) move out," said resident Fran Cooper van Allen, a nurse whose husband built their home in 1989. "We have plenty of houses that have been sitting vacant for months."
In February, to address a spate of burglaries and thefts, Cooper van Allen went door-to-door to raise enough support to found a C.O.P.S. -- Community Oriented Police Services -- program. The group has organized neighborhood walks and Saturday night porch gatherings to keep watch. They held a yard sale for fund-raising and networking. They're brainstorming ways to keep the neighborhood's roving packs of curfew-ignoring teenagers busy.
They hope the pushback will help thwart the rash of arson, too.
Chris Carella, whose split-level home faces a scorched one across the street, has installed a surveillance system, which he said caught only a flash of light when the residence sparked on June 27. Recent crimes have left his wife on edge, he said.
"It's been a great neighborhood to live in, a great working-man's neighborhood," said Carella, a resident of 19 years. "These last six months, we've been struggling for the soul of our community."
Cooper van Allen is saving up to one day buy a farm. Until then, she's ready to fight the good fight.
"If we move out and lay down and let them push us around," she said, "they're going to keep doing this crap."
Investigators ask anyone with information to contact the Gwinnett Fire Arson and Explosives Investigation Section at 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.
Georgia Arson Control Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of arsonists.