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String of suspicious fires hints at serial arsonist

By Walter Geiger Another home was destroyed in a suspicious, late night fire here December 27 and investigators theorize it may be the 12th local blaze ignited by a serial arsonist. The most recent fire claimed the home built by the late Hodges Poore at 902 Hwy. 41 South. The charred remains of the house and 35 acres are owned by Poore’s daughter, Joanne P. McCathern of Columbia, S.C. Fire chief Steve Andrews said the home was pretty much a total loss although his firefighters were able to save an old Ford Model A from the garage. ”It’s another suspicious fire. It looks like arson but it is still an open report. It fits the pattern. It was late at night and a vacant house,” Andrews said. The Poore home was for sale for $278,000 and its Icosahedron design earned it the designation as the most unique home in the community. A Thanksgiving night fire destroyed a home less than a mile from the Poore place on Bush Road. At least two other suspicious fires destroyed homes in the area of the go-kart track on Hwy. 36 West in August. According to sheriff-elect Brad White, the string of arson fires began in 2007 at a home on Bulldog Court. Fires struck two homes in May of 2009 – one on Brown Springs Road and another on Midway Road. A November, 2009 blaze was set at a home on High Falls Road. Earlier this year, arson claimed a home at 153 Freeman Road March 13. Suspicious May fires – three in 10 days – took down homes on Old Scout, Morgan Dairy and English roads. White said investigators are looking for two suspect vehicles. A man in a white pickup was seen in the area of the two Hwy. 36 West blazes. Before the Poore fire, neighbors spotted a dirty, white Hyundai Elantra running without headlights in the area of the home just before it went up in flames. ”We don’t know that the people in these vehicles are suspects but we do want to talk with them,” the sheriff said. White also said owners of – or neighbors to – vacant homes should be on the lookout for the suspect vehicles and other questionable activities. ”If they see something, anything out of the ordinary, we want them to call 911,” White concluded.

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