|Updated: 1/11/2012 9:27 am
||Published: 1/10/2012 10:00 am
A Tulsa firefighter is making big strides in his recovery after he was badly injured fighting a north Tulsa house fire on New Years Eve.
But the arsonist who set the fire is still on the loose. Tulsa firefighters spent part of Tuesday afternoon canvassing the neighborhood where the fire happened in hopes of finding new leads.
James O'Neal had to be rescued out of the house at 4926 N. Elwood, and spent six days in the hospital, four of those days in the intensive care unit. He was released last week.
At least six Tulsa firefighters walked door to door Tuesday handing out packets with fire safety information, and information on how to call in tips to investigators anonymously. A $5,600 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and indictment of the arsonist.
People in the area seemed to be receptive to the firefighters' efforts.
"I was telling my daughter I don't know if we or anybody's safe over here no more," Ollie Burgess said.
Burgess lives near the home that was burned, and says her neighborhood has always been quiet and safe. But not lately.
"I thought about moving now, you know, really," she said. "Because you're not home and you go away for a few hours and something like that happens."
Burgess says the fact that a firefighter was injured while trying to help a family in her neighborhood makes the situation even harder to understand.
"He put his life on the [line], trying help somebody, you know. And I thought that was sad."
So did James O'Neal's fellow firefighters.
"A situation like this, when it hurts one of your own, it, I guess, gives you the motivation to get out there and hit the streets and find this arsonist," Tulsa firefighter Justin Flake said.
Tuesday wasn't the first time the Tulsa Fire Department has tried canvassing neighborhoods to get a lead on an arsonist. After a string of more than 40 arsons in North Tulsa this past summer, firefighters went door to door in a similar effort. And while they haven't caught that criminal yet, the effort certainly wasn't a waste.
"It is a message," Stan May, TFD Public Information Officer, said. "But it has also led to tips. You know, we got several tips on that first one we did. They were just tips on different types of criminal activity, different fires."
Now May and Flake says it's time for Tulsans to step up and help protect their neighborhoods while sending a clear message to any potential fire bug out there.
"It just doesn't affect you, burning down a house," Flake said. "There's lives at risk, with firefighters lives and occupants inside the home. Everyone's at risk."
Burgess appreciates the firefighters' mission, but isn't holding her breath that anybody will actually speak up and give them the information they need.
"I wish they would, but I don't think that will be enough," she said. "Because, you know, people don't like to talk, especially on the north side. I hate to say that, [but] they don't."
Investigators are hoping someone in the area may have noticed suspicious activity. There is a $5,600 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.
If you have any information call the 918-596-ARSN.