"We have fires that are ruled arson and investigated on a regular basis," Tyree said. "But it's not prevalent ... in Charleston."
That could be because of a targeted enforcement campaign by the department.
"We've had some success in mitigating those problems -- the persons or families that have caused the fire problems in the past," he said.
Tyree said people who intentionally set a fire for insurance or monetary purposes realize that at some point they are going to get caught. If they aren't, "it's going to be hard to get insurance and coverage if there are fires around you, whether it's mysterious or not."
Tyree said it was troubling that children were involved in this instance, "but the potential was high for all 11 people in that structure to have the worst problems of their life with this."
Tyree said, as far as he knows, none of the victims suffered burns, but "smoke inhalation is just as bad."
"That and carbon monoxide poisoning, the toxic smoke, that is what kills people," he said. "Most of the time when people are burned, it's from explosions or flash fires. But with the carbon monoxide poisoning, most people are dead before they even have a chance to get burned."
There were no smoke alarms present on the first floor of the apartment building, but there was an operating carbon monoxide alarm in the home, Tyree said.
Tyree said it's imperative for people to have operating smoke alarms in their home.
"Most of the time when there is an operating smoke alarm, it provides you with an early warning," he said, "but it doesn't always guarantee a safe evacuation."
Tyree said the only thing that guarantees a safe evacuation from a home engulfed in flames is to have smoke alarms and residential sprinklers.
Smoke alarms should be outside of every bedroom and throughout the home.
"They play a big part in early warning," he said.
Anyone with information about the fire should call the Charleston Fire Department shift commander at 304-348-8133, the Fire Prevention Bureau at 304-348-8058, or the Charleston Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at 304-348-6480.
Staff writer Jim Balow contributed to this report. Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathr...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.