By Roger Croteau - Express-News
MARION — Residents are on edge each day at twilight, worried that the dawn could bring news of another fire.
On five nights since mid-September, suspicious fires have damaged or destroyed buildings in this close-knit community of about 1,200 people. One has resulted in juvenile arson arrests. The others are unexplained.
“There is an awful lot of history here and so far they've burned up a good part of it,” said Roger Scheffel, owner of Helping Hand Hardware. “I come and check on my business, usually once or twice a night.”
The first fire came the night of Sept. 18, when Don's Auto Repair was destroyed. On the night of Sept. 19, a suspicious fire burned Penshorn's Meat Market and Blue Moon Antiques.
One of the boys has since been released from juvenile detention but ordered to stay at his grandparents' house in Bexar County and not to enter Guadalupe County.
Two weeks later, on Oct. 24, the old Marion Train Depot on East Krueger Street, which was being used for storage, was destroyed by a suspicious fire.
“I'm at a loss,” Hild said. “We've started 24-hour police patrols. We took the money from street repair and maintenance and hired another officer. He was the first one on the scene at the last fire.”
“Sure, it's frustrating,” Hild said. “Everything we follow up turns out to be a dead end. We're just keeping our eyes and ears open.”
Scheffel said the loss of the antique store has reduced downtown foot traffic, and his own business is down 30 to 40 percent on weekends as a result.
“I just hope no other businesses in Marion have to go through what we did,” said owner Leona Penshorn. “It's been pretty rough. It's nerve-wracking to think who could be next, but I don't think it's over yet.”