‘Serial Arsonist' Arrested in Series of Fort Worth Fires

Fires have plagued Fort Worth's Historic Southside neighborhood

Fort Worth fire arson investigators say they have arrested a “serial arsonist” for at least two fires in a series of blazes that have started at vacant homes and buildings in the city’s historic Southside neighborhood.

George Wayne Reibert is being held in the Tarrant County jail on $250,000 bond. He was initially arrested on a fugitive warrant last month, but court records show he was charged with two counts of arson on Oct. 22 and Nov. 12.

During a news conference Thursday afternoon, investigators said they believe Reibert was responsible for another eight and 13 fires.

“They were all started with a very identifiable and very similar M.O.,” said arson investigator Brad Sims.

Sims declined to elaborate on exactly what the characteristics were, including what Reibert is suspected of using to start the fires.

Fort Worth fire investigators talk about the arrest of a 42-year-old homeless man accused of setting a series of fires in the Historic Southside neighborhood.

Sims described Reibert as a loner who didn't have much involvement with the community, making the investigation to find a suspect more arduous. Fire officials thanked both the community and the police department for their assistance in the investigations.

“A lot of people were nervous about it,” said Joe Vaughn, a 20 year resident of the neighborhood.

Vaughn said he recognized Reibert from his mugshot as someone who had been walking in the area and near the 7-Eleven and Jack-in-the-Box at Rosedale and Interstate 35W.

One resident told NBC 5 that people were nervous to leave their homes, thinking that they could come back to a burned out structure. 

Sims said all of the structures were vacant, though there may have been people inside the homes when the fires were set.

“This was difficult because it was so random, there was no set pattern,” Sims said.

Sims said Reibert’s fires were started at various times of day, which complicated the investigation.

The big break in the case came following two fires on August 28. The first fire occurred at the back of a home at 1308 South Freeway. Less than an hour later another fire broke out at 720 South Kentucky Avenue.

According to an arrest affidavit, at some point the neighbor across the street from the South Kentucky home contacted investigators as the home owner had surveillance video.

The affidavit says fire investigators used that surveillance video, combined with the similarity of the fires, to look at other possible video sources on the route between the two fires.

Investigators found the same suspect in the homeowner’s video outside the Jack-In-The-Box and inside the 7-Eleven. 

“We added the video footage from the other places, we gained more and more information,” Sims said.

With help and input from the community investigators went to the Presbyterian Night Shelter where an employee recognized Reibert from the surveillance video and provided investigators with his name and an address.

Reibert had been staying at the shelter on and off for several months before he found a place to live.

Investigator Sims found that Reibert was wanted on a parole violation out of Louisiana. He had been found guilty of arson there and they made the arrest on that violation once they learned of it.

Investigators later learned Reibert is wanted on a warrant out of Tulsa County, Oklahoma for arson. Sims says Reibert's history with arson goes back for nearly 20 years from what he's found.

Sims said he’s spoken with other jurisdictions where Reibert lived where they may have similar arsons with the same patterns. Sims says Reibert told them he moved to Fort Worth in March.

“In this case it didn’t happen so quick, we had to do a lot of searching,” Sims said.

However, arson investigators said the number of fires Reibert is believed to have set does not include all of the fires reported in the Southside neighborhood.

On East Pulaski street in late September, Corelli Rivas’ mother was watching her son, Christian Jr., when a neighbor starting knocking on the door and woke them up. Their backyard shed had been set on fire from the alley.

“I mean, I was in shock,” said Christian Rivas, Sr. “My son was in there, my family.”

All that’s left of the shed is ashes, melted tools and scorched propane tanks. The home lost power and cable for several days from the fire. Investigators could not say if Reibert is suspected in that fire, but no matter what, the Rivas’ are glad he’s behind bars.

“Makes us feel that no one else is going to go through this,” Christian said.

Investigators did say Reibert may be connected to a fire in the 200 block of South Williams Street, which burned in mid-July. Two other structures, just blocks away, also burned that same morning or previous night.

Court records show Reibert has a court-appointed lawyer who was not immediately available for comment Wednesday night.

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NBC 5's Scott Gordon and Frank Heinz contributed to this report.

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