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Man charged with burning group home
Teen suspect lived at house

COVINGTON - An 18-year-old man has been arrested and charged with arson in connection with a fire that he allegedly set at a group home housing six residents Christmas Eve night, according to the Covington Fire Department.

"I investigated it, along with the Covington Police Department and after some interviews we arrested Ryan (Edward) Jackson and charged him with first degree arson," said CFD Capt. Tony Smith.

Jackson remains incarcerated at the Newton County Jail under a $15,000 bond.

Jackson was one of five youths, ranging in age from 17 to 18 years old, housed at the residential facility at 3156 Spring St. The home is operated by Project Adventure, a Covington-based youth program that deals with troubled youths as an alternative to jail or detention. Also, at the site was a house director. No one was injured.

Smith said the CFD received an alarm around 8 p.m. because the home's sprinkler system was activated. The sprinkler system is activated by heat and is connected to an alarm which alerts the fire department.

"When we got there, we found some light smoke coming from the structure. Everyone had evacuated and were out of the house," he said.

The fire was apparently started from what Smith described as "on site material," in an upstairs bedroom. He said the fire was contained to the bedroom of the frame house; however, there was extensive water damage.

"The sprinklers did the job, but because of it being on the top floor, the water damage was more significant than the fire itself. But, without the sprinkler system, because of the age of the house, there is a good chance we would have lost the house if it (the sprinkler system) wasn't there," Smith said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.