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Arsonist lights clothes, sets gas pump ablaze

COVINGTON - Firefighters answered a call at the North Fork Chevron station about 1:45 a.m. Monday after someone set a pile of men's clothing on fire in front of a gas pump, according to the Newton County Fire Service.

Deputy Chief Tim Smith said video surveillance tape reveals that someone pulled up and put the clothing in front of a gas pump, setting the clothes ablaze. The fire spread to the gas pump and trash can.

"We were able to contain the fire to that one gas pump," he said. "It melted the plastic around the pump and the garbage can."

Workers were on hand Monday morning, replacing the pump and restoring service to the station, which is located at the intersection of Georgia highways 81 and 142.

"It was an intentionally set fire," Smith said. "We're in the process of getting the video tape enhanced. We have a good shot of the perpetrator setting the clothes on fire. We have a good video image of that."

Smith said his initial investigation had not determined whether the arsonist is male or female; however, they do know the clothing that was burned belonged to a man, leading investigators to believe it could have been a domestic incident.

"We don't know if it was a vendetta against somebody at the store. We are looking at any ties to somebody at the store or if this was a random act," he said.

He said investigators are also hopeful that an enhanced version of the surveillance tape will show them whether the perpetrator was alone, as well as definite identification of the make and model of the vehicle the suspect was driving.

Smith asks that anyone who might have been driving by and observed anything out of the ordinary to call the NCFS at 770-784-2116 or the Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Arson Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

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 and callers can choose to remain anonymous.

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