There is still cleaning to be done at a burned-out building in Brockton, Massachusetts — the aftermath of a fire authorities believe was started by a serial arsonist a week ago.
Firefighters were called to 175 East Ashland St. last Wednesday for a fire they say Mark Sargent of Fall River started.
Behind the glass in court Tuesday, with his hands cuffed, he pleaded not guilty. But for Brockton Fire Chief Michael Williams, Sargent's past is overshadowing his plea.
"I've never encountered an arsonist at this level," said Williams.
Investigators say this wasn't Sargent's first fire, or second, or third, but possibly his 30th. Police have been following him. Court documents reveal investigators have tracked his cars and installed a camera on a pole outside his apartment in Fall River.
"A lot of times, an accidental fire, you can control a lot easier — contain it to a smaller section of a house or a building," said Williams. "An arson fire, a lot of times, they're spreading flammable liquids. These fires get a much bigger head start before we get there."
The frustration goes back to 2014, when Sargent pleaded guilty to burning two buildings in Plymouth County.
Prosecutors wanted him in prison for 12 years, but the judge disagreed.
"For a judge to take the medium pathway on an arson charge, is, I believe, disrespectful to the fire service and their investigators," said Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Grenno in 2014.
Sargent was released from prison in October of 2015, and investigators say he has been busy. They say he is a person of interest in up to 10 fires in just the last year.
"I'd like to see a much stronger sentence," said Williams. "A longer sentence that just the two years he received in the past."
Sargent is being held on $250,000 cash bail.