News 12 First at Five / Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Rain drizzles on the charred remains of what was a home until just days ago. Nearby, three other homes, also destroyed, are surrounded by crime scene tape.
"Our whole goal of being volunteer firemen is to save peoples' lives and property and beat the monster that the fire is," says Chris Cady with Couchton Volunteer Fire Rescue, which responded to the recent fire calls along with several other departments, including the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
In the past seven days, there have been seven fires at four different addresses within about two miles of each other outside Aiken. All seven are believed to be arson.
"When we hear that someone is intentionally setting a fire, it really aggravates and makes us upset," says Cady.
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office has charged two suspects, Johnnie Settles and Jesse Green.
Settles is accused of starting a fire at 531 Iris Lane on November 19 at 2:17 AM. Once firefighters put it out the first time, investigators believe he reignited it around 3:36 AM and then one more time the next day.
Settles was arrested and charged with three counts of Arson (3rd Degree).
Even with settles behind bars, the fires continued, however. This time, firefighters responded to one at Settles' home on November 24 at 10:08 AM, three mobile homes down from the previous fire. At 5:19 PM the same day, firefighters responded to another fire at that address.
Ultimately, Jesse Green was arrested on Monday in reference to those fires and charged for two counts of Arson (3rd Degree) and Disorderly Conduct.
"With any arson investigation, your evidence it burned, so it takes time to sift through that evidence of the remains of whatever was set on fire," says Captain Eric Abdullah with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
Before the arrest, at 12:23 AM, firefighters also battled two more fires about two miles from the others on Vista Drive. The Sheriff's Office says Green is a person of interest for those fires too.
"All of the taxpayers in our protection district are funding us, so it's coming out of their pocket," says Cady.
Cady says those fires didn't just put firefighters in danger. Other mobile homes were only feet away. Additionally, Couchton is a volunteer department, so it diverts resources that are already stretched.
Incident reports indicate at least $50,000 worth of destruction. Luckily, though, there were no injuries.
The Aiken County Sheriff's Office says the two suspect had interactions in the past. Captain Abdullah says the investigation is active and ongoing.