Arsonist strikes Armenian Cemetery again, burning 20 trees since January

Law enforcement is not calling the incidents a hate crime yet because other cemeteries in the area have been hit as well over the last few months, along with the fact that they don’t have a suspect in hand and a known motive.

Fresno is scheduled to raise the Armenian flag in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide on Wednesday, but the local Armenian cemetery continues to be struck with arson, an issue that has been ongoing for months. 

Other cemeteries neighboring Ararat Armenian Cemetery in southwest Fresno have also been hit by arson, leading law enforcement to hold off on calling the fires a hate crime. 


The backstory: An arsonist has struck Ararat Armenian Cemetery and its neighbors on the 160-acre land 11 times since Jan. 13. 

  • In total there have been around 30 trees damaged, with 20 trees torched at Ararat Armenian Cemetery, according to the Fresno Fire Department. 

Driving the news: The most recent incident took place late Sunday night when two police officers were already nearby dealing with another incident when they noticed that some trees were on fire at Ararat Armenian Cemetery. 

  • The arsonist has been targeting cypress trees, which the fire department said are very flammable and an easier target for arson than other trees. 
  • Nine of the 11 incidents have occurred late at night. 

The big picture: Fire officials said at a press conference Tuesday that they have a suspect that they are trying to get in touch with. 

  • Without a suspect in hand and a known motive, the fire department is not calling the arson a hate crime at this point. 
  • Valley Crime Stoppers is offering a $2,000 reward for anyone who can help law enforcement find the arsonist. 

What they’re saying: “We don’t have a suspect, so without a suspect we do always keep that avenue open,” said Deputy Fire Marshal Jay Tracy when asked if the incidents constitute a hate crime. “But at this point we have nothing that would lead us to believe that this is any sort of hate crime.” 

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