Ten days after an arson investigator and suspected arsonist died during an early morning shootout in Timbergrove Manor, the Houston Fire Department said it was still looking into a string of recent fires in the Heights area.
HFD said in a Monday news release that the Houston Arson Bureau continues “investigating multiple fires in the northwest area of Houston.” The department has not answered emailed questions from The Leader about the number of fires under investigation, the times, dates and locations of the fires and whether there are additional suspects beyond the two who have been identified.
Joshua A. Rauch, 28, was arrested Oct. 10 and charged with second-degree felony arson, according to the fire department, which said he is accused of setting seven fires early Oct. 7 in the Oak Forest and Acres Homes areas. Among the items set fire at those locations were vehicles, sheds and trash, according to HFD.
HFD said Joshua De La Cerda, 30, who died Oct. 16 near the intersection of West 18th Street and Watercrest Drive, is also “supected in setting multiple fires in the area.” HFD said De La Cerda was involved in an exchange of gunfire with arson investigator Lemuel Bruce, who also died Oct. 16, during a surveillance operation in the Heights area early that morning.
HFD said Bruce, 44, was going off a “vague vehicle description and general geographical area” during the surveillance operation. The department said Bruce was attempting to obtain a license plate number from the vehicle driven by De La Cerda when gunfire was exchanged.
“Investigations involving Joshua De La Cerda and Joshua Rauch are still ongoing,” HFD said. “No additional details will be released at this time, except to state that the (Houston Arson Bureau) is working with other law enforcement partners to ensure successful completion of these cases.”