WATERVILLE — Police have identified a suspect in a case involving two brush fires that were set in Pine Grove and St. Francis cemeteries Thursday on Grove Street in the city’s South End, according to Deputy police Chief Bill Bonney.

The fires were arson, a Class A felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, Bonney said Friday.

“There is a suspect at this time, and Officer Steve Brame is working on that investigation,” Bonney said. “Brame is investigating, the fire marshal’s office has been consulted and Brame will conduct a follow up over the next week in an effort to make the case and make potential charges.”

After the fires were set, a person was seen fleeing the scene, Bonney said.

“Nobody saw the suspect start the fires, but the suspect was seen leaving the area,” he said.

The fires were put out quickly. The first fire was reported at 12:57 p.m. Thursday at the south end of Pine Grove Cemetery. A grounds crew from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department working in the cemetery saw smoke, hurried to it, discovered a pile of leaves and brush and called the fire department. Firefighters arrived quickly and put the fire out.

At 1:47 p.m., another fire was reported about 300 yards away in the adjacent St. Francis Cemetery, also at the south end of the cemetery, next to the woods. Two parks and recreation employees saw the fire, connected a hose to a nearby faucet and put the fire out before firefighters arrived. The 10-by-20-foot swath of brush that burned had been illegally dumped in the cemetery, according to cemetery director Mike Hebert, who was at the scene.

Bonney said Friday that arson is a serious crime and the cemetery fires could have spread quickly if they hadn’t been detected and extinguished.

“As dry as it’s been around here, the fire could have spread and there’s a lot of wooded area around the cemetery,” Bonney said. “Somebody could say, ‘Well it’s just a little brush fire,’ but the consequences of a little brush fire could quickly escalate and endanger people’s homes and properties and lives.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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Twitter: @AmyCalder17