The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Police/Courts

June 17, 2014

Minden hit again by suspicious fire

A Sunday night house fire in Minden was likely set by an unidentified arsonist who had targeted the home for the second time in a week, Fayette County officials reported Monday.

Residents of the home were uninjured, officials said.

Oak Hill and Fayetteville fire department crews were called out at 11:25 p.m. Sunday to a Rock Lick School Road home. They’d extinguished the fire by 12:24 a.m. Monday, according to Fayette Emergency Operations dispatchers.

Fayette County Sheriff’s Capt. Jim Sizemore said Monday the same home had been on fire last week and that fire investigators had found four different points of origin, indicating the fire had been deliberately set in four different places.

Sizemore said investigators suspect that the Sunday night fire at the home was set by the same person, although forensic information wasn’t as clear as evidence collected at the Sunday fire.

“It was definitely a set fire the first time,” emphasized Sizemore.

Over the past year, Sizemore said, an estimated 11 houses have burned down in the Rock Lick area of Minden.

“Most of them have been abandoned houses,” said Sizemore. “It’s been going on for quite some time, and we’ve had officers investigating the fires.”

Although fire investigators can’t prove that each of the 11 fires was caused by arson, police are aware that an arsonist is operating in the Fayette neighborhood, said Sizemore.

The arsonist has not yet been identified, he said, because the public has provided little information to police.

“We’ve had several names that have come up but nothing that we could use to make an arrest,” he reported. “Some of these folks have been picked up and questioned, but we’re not at the point where we could be anywhere close to making an arrest.”

Sizemore said that arson is a felony offense and that it can lead to serious injuries to firefighters and residents, even if the fire is set at an abandoned house.

“If an abandoned house would be close to an occupied residence, clearly that would be dangerous because, as the fire spread, it could easily ignite another house,” he said. “Any time you’re dealing with a fire, it’s dangerous.

“Every time the firemen go out on a call, there’s risks involved with that,” he added.

Sizemore said anyone with information may submit a tip on the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department page on Facebook or by calling Crime Stoppers at 304-255-STOP.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com

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