An Exclusive Interview With the Preserves Arsonist

He is smart. He is professional. He is everything you don't expect.

The arsonist argues that the CSP is less reckless than the ELF. CSP has not burned occupied buildings, for one. Plus, his group does not wish to encourage the growth of untrained and independent cells. "We don't want to have copycat teenagers playing with matches," he says.

As for the nearly identical phrase ("U Build It We Burn It") found at a CSP arson site and, later, an ELF target, the arsonist shrugged, "If they're going to use our phrase, they should give us credit for it."

Fine, but why is the CSP resorting to blunt-force arson in the first place? Why not devote their public lives to making a traditional difference like so many struggling activists in the Valley?

At this question, the arsonist shows a sudden flash of anger.

"That presumes that one or more of us is not already doing that!" he says, brandishing his index finger.

Then, like a flipped switch, he is mellow and once again grooving to the Celtic band.

"I'm known for public advocacy in other areas," he says vaguely. "We anguish over having to take these steps. We do everything we can to minimize the risk to adjacent property owners and to firefighters. But at one fire, I stayed behind and observed [the firefighters]. There's nobody going inside. They're just doing mop-up. Firefighters are in more danger breathing the polluted air."

There's no thrill in lighting these fires, he insists; the whole business is "scary." He worries constantly about jeopardizing the future of his family. He can, and will, stop once the goals are accomplished.

If they are accomplished.

So again, I ask the question he never really answered: What does he feel when he lights up a house?

Once again, he pauses.

"Fear of being observed," he says finally. "And then, anticipation of the media coverage."

Fear and anticipation.

The arsonist may not be a pyromaniac, after all. But there are other ways setting fires can be addictive. The risk. The attention. Outwitting the police. Flirting with the media. All are common qualities in those who commit serial crimes for any reason. If the arsonist has a sin, other than the obvious, it is the apparent pride he takes in his work.

Like now. Sitting in Patriots Square. Risking capture. Anticipating the media coverage. And having a swell time doing it.

As our conversation winds down, the arsonist says the other CSP members are glaring at him to finish. Our interview lasted more than 90 minutes.

As he rises to leave, he suddenly leans forward and shakes my hand. Fairly firm grip. His breath and clothes smell like nothing at all. He says goodbye and quickly strolls away, head down, slipping into the parking garage door and disappearing from sight.

In like a ghost. Out like a ghost. Another publicity mission accomplished.

For complete New Times coverage of the Preserves Arsonist, click over to our Arsonist Archives.

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