Someone was setting the trash in large containers on fire in the Delano neighborhood of west Wichita last March, and Fire Lt. Kelly Zane was determined to catch them.
With the help of police officers, Zane scoured the area just west of the Arkansas River for clues as to who it might be and where they could strike next.
He was monitoring the area from the Lawrence-Dumont Stadium parking lot early on the morning of March 6 when an officer spotted a man walking away from a trash container behind El Mexico Cafe at 555 W. Douglas. Zane spotted him as he tried to flee the area, and the man was arrested.
The suspect later pleaded guilty to nine counts of arson. Fire Chief Ron Blackwell said investigators think the man is responsible for another six fires, including one that damaged a commercial building. In some cases, the trash containers were next to buildings that were still occupied, Blackwell said.
For his work on the case, Zane has been named the 2011 Fire Investigator of the Year by the Kansas chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators. He is the sixth Wichita arson investigator to receive the honor in the 53-year history of the award.
Zane has been with the department for nearly 20 years.