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Fire marshal, KCSO looking for arsonist

Posted: December 23, 2010 10:55 a.m.
Updated: December 24, 2010 5:00 a.m.

Is there a serial arsonist in the Mt. Pisgah and Cassatt areas? Are there two?

That’s the question Kershaw County Fire Marshal Gene Faulkenberry and the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) are asking as they investigate a string of fires in both areas. The one thing tying them together, said Faulkenberry, is the structures that have been burned were all abandoned.

“I’ve had three in the Buffalo area that were suspicious and three in Cassatt over the last several weeks that were suspicious,” said Faulkenberry. “All of them are abandoned barns or houses with no electricity and nobody living in them or using them.”

Faulkenberry said two of the structures were tobacco barns. Two others were old farm houses, one used for storage and the other as a meeting place for deer hunters. The remaining fires involved mobile homes.

“The ones I’m looking at are 1 1/2 to 3 miles apart in the Mt. Pisgah area and about the same distance apart in Cassatt,” Faulkenberry said.

In addition to working with the KCSO, Faulkenberry said the S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) is involved in the investigation.

As of Wednesday, the KCSO had filed 15 arson or suspicious fire incident reports in 2010. Several were reported in Lugoff while several others involved vehicle fires. Faulkenberry said the vehicle fires sometimes end up being cases where people have burned their own cars for insurance money or have been stolen and burned to cover the crime. Other cases the KCSO filed this year have involved mobile homes, tractors and even a camper.

Those cases, said Faulkenberry, are not tied to the ones he’s investigating in the Cassatt and Mt. Pisgah areas.

No KCSO reports were immediately available regarding the Mt. Pisgah fires.

The first of those, Faulkenberry said was on April 25 on S.C. 903 involving an old farm house used for storage. Two days later, a house on Mt. Pisgah Road burned down. Everything was quiet for several months until two single-wide mobile homes were involved in a single incident on Bradley Trail in the Mt. Pisgah area on July 15.

The Cassatt fires have all taken place since early November and have been documented by the deputies.

The Cassatt Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire on Joe Lenix Road just after midnight Nov. 10. It reported finding a single-story wood frame barn structure fully involved and on the ground. As with the Mt. Pisgah fires, firefighters reported the barn was empty and had no power.

The second fire was called in around 7 p.m. Nov. 22 along the 1100 block of Mt. Zion Road. There, Faulkenberry said, he believed someone set an old farm house on fire. He told deputies he knew the home had been unoccupied and without power for many years. Several firefighting units responded as well as a S.C. Forestry Commission plow. Faulkenberry told firefighters to allow the structure to burn itself out so it wouldn’t be a hazard.

At that point, Faulkenberry told deputies he’d had three other suspicious fires in the area in the past several months.

The third Cassatt fire involved another old abandoned house at the intersection of Yarborough and Cassatt roads just south of Old Stagecoach Road. The fire was reported just before midnight Dec. 14 by a junior member of the Cassatt Fire Department.

“He and several others had been working on a car and were headed back home and they saw the glow in the sky,” said Faulkenberry. “There’s a big old field there -- I don’t know what had been planted.”

He agreed that because of that the fire could have been much worse if it hadn’t been spotted.

Faulkenberry said his office, the KCSO and SLED are all still working on the investigations and that he hopes to develop more information about the arsons in the near future.

Anyone with knowledge about these fires is urged to call Faulkenberry at 425-1522 or the KCSO at 425-1512.

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