Two fires at Harrisburg home probably arson

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News 12 at 6 o'clock, May 10, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Investigators say arsonists are behind two fires last night in Augusta's Harrisburg neighborhood.

It all happened at 1732 Watkins Street. It's an abandoned piece of property, and investigators say they've been to that address five times in the past two months.

Fire investigators say arson is a growing problem in the Harrisburg community, and it's putting lots of neighbors in danger.

Walter Bodie says he heard the crackle and pop and saw the flames out his window.

"They were real high. They were real hot," he said. "I could feel the heat through the windows in my house."

The first one started around 11:20 p.m. Investigators say they believe the arsonist was nearby as firefighters put out the small fire, and started the blaze again six hours later.

This time it got much bigger, sending flames dangerously close to Walter.

The fires happened just about 15 feet way from his house. In fact, you can see some leaves burned in one of his trees. And the fire department says if the wind had been blowing just a little harder, his entire house could have caught on fire.

"They're putting people's lives at risk--firemen and the public," said Battalion Chief Mike Weathers. That's why he says they're trying to figure out who's behind the neighborhood protect people like Timothy Fellows, Jr. and his family, who also live nearby.

"These people don't have any moral desire, any virtue, any respect for society," Fellows told News 12.

Firefighters say they're not sure why someone would ignite abandoned houses--possibly for fun or out of boredom. But whatever the reason, it's at the peril of neighbors like Walter.

"It's close to my house, and all I got is my house," he said.

The fire department says they know it's arson because the house that keeps going up in flames does not have any utilities, which means there's nothing to cause a spark.

The owner lives in Texas, and apparently the house has been abandoned for a while.

The city can take over private property if it's labeled as dangerous, but that's a very complicated process, and it can cost thousands of dollars of public money.

Right now, there are no suspects in last night's fire.

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