Investigators were searching Monday for whoever burned holiday and mourning wreaths hung in the Western Cemetery on St. Thomas.
The small fires appeared to be an act of malicious vandalism, said Jonelle-Alexis Jackson, a spokesperson for the Virgin Islands Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
“We’re trying to find anyone with information leading to any person or persons responsible for it,” Jackson said. “It does disturb those being affected by it. So we want to make sure that of all the things happening this holiday season this is something you don’t have to worry about.”
Unlike most other forms of vandalism, arson is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail in the Virgin Islands. While the fires were not a threat to any homes or businesses in the area, they did draw firefighting resources away from potentially more serious causes, she said.
“We generally don’t want to divert any more of our efforts to smaller incidents and crimes like that,” Jackson said.
The arsons could also cause emotional distress to families of people interred at the Western Cemetery, she said and hoped the nuisance crimes didn’t deter continued decoration.
Investigating the arsons was a cross-agency initiative, she said, involving the fire department as well as the Public Works Department and Virgin Islands Police Department.
“If you see any sketchy activity, anyone frequenting the cemetery after hours, I do know some of the gates to the cemetery do lock but there are still access points, so we’re asking anyone driving by — any motorists or residents — if they see any smoke or fire please call the fire department via 911 or our direct lines,” Jackson said.
The Arson Prevention and Investigation Unit can be reached at 340-776-7610 and the Department of Public Works is at 340-776-4844.