Fire marshal: arson suspected

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two early Monday morning fires are being investigated after volunteer firefighters believed they were the work of a suspected arsonist.

And according to state Fire Marshal Ed Paul, they may be right.

Capt. Rick Forte of the Gantt Volunteer Fire Department and fellow firefighter Kelly Carter said the department responded to two fires in the Gantt Community, each with strange similarities.

“It’s really mind-boggling to me,” Forte said. “The first call came in at around 1 a.m. from on Commerce Street. The second one was at approximately 3 a.m. at a house on Goodhope Road.

“The fires were started at the door, ” he said. “At the first house, the smoke alarm woke them up and (the fire) was put out with a water hose.

“The second one was at that house’s front door,” he said. “I said, ‘Someone set that fire.’ It was exactly like the first one. That family could have been in deep trouble if the smoke detector had not gone off.

“Dozier was (at the scene first) and had put it out,” he said. “But it was burnt same way – at the bottom of door.”

Paulk said both fires, which occurred in the northern end of Covington County were 10 miles apart.

“It does look like these were set fires of occupied dwellings,” he said. “Thankfully, no one was hurt. We are doing an active investigation, and anyone with any information can call our arson hotline at 1-800-654-0775.”

Forte said he felt “people need to be warned if some idiot is starting fires at people’s doors.”

“They also really need to check the batteries in their smoke detectors,” he said.

Forte said he was told that three other fires with similar characteristics were reported in Dozier; however, Paulk said his office was unaware of those fires.

Chief Deputy David Anderson with the Covington County Sheriff’s Office said the only fire reported was a kitchen fire at the home of former Red Level town council member Sybil Still.