Arson suspected in two related structure fires

COVINGTON - Two fires, which Newton County Fire Service investigator and Deputy Chief Tim Smith said were "suspicious in nature," erupted in the early morning hours Friday.

Smith said firefighters were first summoned to a building at the corner of E. Clark and Emory streets in Oxford at about 2 a.m.

"Flames were coming through the roof at the rear of the building when we arrived," Smith said. "We were in a defensive mode trying to stop the fire the whole time we were there."

The building formerly was used as a TV repair shop and is being used by the owner as a storage facility. Smith said the building contained a large number of antique furniture and other antique items and that damage was "extensive."

While firefighters were still engaged in fighting that fire, a blaze erupted at a vacant residence, 6 Daisy St. in Porterdale at about 4:15 a.m. That house is owned by the same individual who owns the Oxford property.

Smith said both fires were intentionally set and, "We think it may be someone who has a vendetta against (the owner)."

Smith said the damage to the Porterdale structure was "minimal," but it wasn't for lack of trying. Attempts were made to ignite the house in three different locations.

This area is designed to allow anonymous tips and information about arson cases.

Smith said anyone with information about these incidents should call the NCFS at 770-784-2123 or go to the Newton County Web site at www.co.newton.ga.us and click on the NCFS Arson Tipline. Tips can be given anonymously, but if a response is desired from the fire service, contact information should be left.

Also, Commissioner John Oxendine of the Georgia Office of Insurance and Fire Safety is asking anyone with information about these fires to call his Arson Hotline at 800-282-5804. Rewards of up to $10,000 are given for information leading to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist. Calls are taken 24 hours a day; callers can choose to remain anonymous. The Commissioner's Office and the Georgia Arson Control Board, Inc., sponsor the Georgia Arson Control Reward Program and the hotline.