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93-year-old house gutted by fire

COVINGTON - The Covington Fire Department is asking for help in locating the person who set a house ablaze at 6144 E. Baxter St. on Monday afternoon.

According to Capt. Tony Smith, two passersby saw flames coming from the home about 1 p.m. and notified authorities.

"Because of the initial smoke and flames that were visible when we arrived, we made the decision not to go inside, but to fight it defensively. We pretty much determined the risk involved at that point was not worth saving the house," he said, adding that it took firefighters about 45 minutes to put out the fire.

"It had tongue and groove ceilings and floors, wood paneling throughout," Smith said. "There was basically a lot of combustible material already present, which contributed to the heavy fire that spread quickly."

Smith said no other structures around the home were damaged and no one was hurt, although one of the passersby who first spotted the fire did try to make sure no one was trapped inside.

"The citizen busted in the back door and yelled to try and see if anybody was in there. He didn't get an answer and backed away," Smith said.

He estimated the loss to be somewhere between $50,000 and $60,000. The home, which was built in 1916, was vacant and only had a few sparse personal belongings inside, left behind from a previous tenant. It had been vacant for about a year and a half, Smith said. There were no utilities connected at the house at the time of the fire.

Smith said because the house was vacant, the time of day the fire began and the rapid progression of the fire, arson was immediately suspected.

"We went ahead and called the state Fire Marshal's office for their assistance," he said. "They brought in an accellerant (sniffing) dog and with their help, we investigated the fire. We believe the fire was intentionally set."

Smith said investigators have developed several good leads and are asking anyone who might have information or who might have seen suspicious vehicles in the area of East Baxter Street or in the area of the Covington Mill Village, to call the Arson Hotline or to call him at 770-385-2155.

The Arson Hotline number is 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 remain anonymous.

Smith said there was another fire Friday morning in the mill village at the corner of Mill and Anglin streets.

"It was accidental in nature," he said, adding that the fire was contained to one room and only smoke damage extended to the rest of the house.

Smith said the two incidents are not believed to be connected in any way as it has been established that the Friday blaze was caused by a discarded cigarette.

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