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Suspicious Fires Occur Twice At Same Location

Reported by: Send eMail Stefano DiPietrantonio
Reported: Jun. 27, 2014 10:41 PM EDT
Updated: Jun. 27, 2014 11:33 PM EDT

Suspicious Fire
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

A suspicious fire occurred twice at the same home in Charleston, this week and both fires were barely a day apart. Now, they’re being called arson.

The house at 1411 Jackson Street has been a nightmare for neighbors for years - a nightmare, officials said they're actually glad to see coming to an end.

From the fights, to the drugs, and the bed-bugs, to strangers coming and going at all hours of the day and night, fire officials told us two attempts by vandals to torch it got stopped before the whole block went-up in flames.

"One day, one day almost to the exact hour," Charleston arson investigator Lt. Matt Lanham said, stating 1411 Jackson Street has been a problem for years in the East End neighborhood, where houses sit just a few feet apart.

"Just puts all the neighbors and residents in a tremendous amount of danger, for vandals doing this for no apparent reason," Lanham said. “Absolutely, it's arson. Absolutely!"

The house was sold for taxes recently, but we're told people were paying as much as $400 to $600 a month to live in rooms there.

Two years ago, the same house was under fire after police said a woman left her 7-month-old baby alone on the sidewalk, while she went inside for nearly an hour. Then, just last year, tenants went nearly three months without water and complained of cockroaches everywhere.

About a month ago, the Charleston Fire Department evicted the tenants and boarded-up the eyesore.

"Because there was no utilities, there was also an infestation of bed bugs and scabies, so the house was condemned by the Building Department," Lanham said. "Within 20 minutes of them being gone, they tore the boards down and were right back in the residence."

The fire looked a lot worse than it was, thanks to plenty of fuel inside, like old mattresses, box springs and tires, but did not do a lot of damage structurally.

"I was standing right here on the porch when the flames came shooting out that window right there," Artie Carter, who lives two doors down, said. "Me and my wife just got this house and we just remodeled, she was hysterical, she was crying."

Carter grew-up on that block and knows it's a good neighborhood with good people.

And to see that house gone now?

"Oh, it's fights, it's drugs, it's all kinds of stuff going on back there,” Carter said. “But it's gone now and you can tell the difference, too!"

If you think you know who set the fire and your information leads to a conviction, the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office will pay you $5,000 for your help. The house by the way, is on the city's schedule to be demolished soon.

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