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KCSO investigating pair of unrelated arson cases
House after fire
Two weeks after it was damaged, the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and Camden Fire Department (CFD) are still investigating the fire at this home on Chestnut Ferry Road Ext. near the American Legion in Camden as a case of arson. The home is outside the city limits of Camden but inside the CFD’s fire protection district. The KCSO is also investigating a separate, unrelated case of arson involving a mobile home on Hunter Lane southeast of Camden. - photo by Martin L. Cahn/C-I

The Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), with assistance from the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) and the Camden Fire Department (CFD), is investigating two arson cases that took place in separate parts of the county about 10 days apart.

The first fire took place late on the night of July 10 at a home on a portion of Chestnut Ferry Road Ext. that is outside the city limits of Camden just off West DeKalb Street (U.S. 1) near American Legion Post No. 17.

A deputy responded to the home around 11:20 p.m. and cleared the scene shortly after the CFD arrived to battle the fire. However, after clearing another call, the deputy learned that firefighters wanted him back at the home due to possible arson.

Upon arrival, the deputy found out that a woman living in the home had been transported from the scene to the hospital by emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. He also learned that a male family member had told another deputy that he had been in an altercation with another man earlier in the day and thought it was possible the fire could have resulted from that incident.

CFD officials then told the responding deputy that they did suspect the fire was caused by arson, showing him four spots -- two each on the left and rear sides of the home -- where they believed the fire had started. Deputies then taped off the residence and called in SLED’s arson unit to assist.

The reporting deputy then went to the hospital to talk to the victim and her family member, but upon arriving found out that the man had left. When contacted by another family member to meet with the deputy, he reportedly never showed up.

The victim told the deputy she had been watching TV when she heard a popping sound. She said she then got up to go to the bathroom and started smelling smoke. A neighbor knocked on the door and told her the residence was on fire.

According to information provided by the CFD, firefighters collected samples of the debris, but are still trying to determine if any type of accelerant was used to set this fire and, if so, why kind was used.

Documents related to the Chestnut Ferry Road fire provided by the CFD show that the alarm went out at 11:25 p.m. Units arrived three minutes later, got the fire under control by 12:20 a.m. and the last units left the scene around 3 a.m. A total of eight units responded to the fire, including personal vehicles.

The CFD estimated the 1,200-square-foot home property and its contents to be valued at $85,000 and estimated losses from the fire at $45,000. The reports show that dispatchers received three or four calls about the fire. Personnel arriving on the scene reported seeing fire showing from the back of the house and through the roof as well as the left side of the home. At that point, first responders asked dispatchers to call for all paid and volunteer personnel to respond to the scene. A total of two dozen firefighters ended up working the fire, including 20 paid firefighters and four volunteers.

The CFD reported firefighters used three lines to attack the fire: one inside the home, one to the side of the home and an additional line for water supply. It also noted that a fire hydrant near the intersection of Chestnut Ferry Road Ext. and Duell Street was not working.

The CFD indicated that the woman taken to the hospital was disabled and suffered from overexertion.

A family member told the C-I on Wednesday that they are in the process of working out details to raise funds to possibly rebuild the house, but had not finalized those plans by press time Thursday.

Hunter Lane fire

On July 27, deputies and investigators responded to the site of a structure fire that caused at least 50 percent damage to a mobile home on Hunter Lane, not far from the intersection of Seegars Mill and Spring Hill roads southeast of Camden. According to a KCSO report, the Charlotte Thompson fire station along with other stations responded to the scene.

A deputy met with Kershaw County Fire Marshall Keith Ray, who said it appeared that the fire began in the front right bedroom as it appeared to have suffered the most severe fire damage. Ray told a KCSO investigator that dispatchers received the call around 4 a.m. July 27. Charlotte Thompson firefighters arrived to find approximately half the trailer involved with fire, and advised that the doors’ dead-bolts were locked. After getting the fire under control, firefighters searched the residence and found no one inside.

Ray told the investigator that they suspected the fire started in the master bedroom because a bed mattress looked like it had been affected by intense heat, possibly a “hot point.”

Deputies spoke to the woman who normally lives at that address and learned that she had been staying with family residing at another home nearby. She said she did so because she and her husband had been having issues, including some altercations she said ended up involving law enforcement.

The woman told deputies that her husband had recently begun making threats over the phone to shoot or kill her and that he had called her multiple times between just before midnight and 1:45 a.m. that morning. A family member told deputies and the investigator that the woman’s husband had returned to the scene while firefighters were handling the blaze, watched for a short time and then left. The woman said the same, but added that her husband did not stop or say anything to her or anyone else.

In addition, the family member stated that the husband had broken out the windows on the front right side of the home several days earlier. Blue plastic was placed over the windows, they said, but the woman’s husband had returned and pulled the covering off.

The investigator reported that the woman claimed her husband had made a comment in the past along the lines of “If I cannot have the house, then nobody will.” The investigator also reported that her family members claimed one of the windows the husband allegedly broke was to the bedroom where firefighters believe the fire started.

Firefighters recovered what appeared to be a new, green cigarette lighter in the front yard.

As a result of these preliminary findings, the investigator asked for SLED’s arson unit to come to the scene to assist.

As of Thursday morning, no arrests had been made in the case.