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Christmas Eve house fires were work of arsonist

STATE AND LOCAL FIRE INVESTIGATORS are looking for the arsonist who tried to set two homes on fire early Christmas Eve. One home was destroyed. Five people, including two children, were asleep inside that home, but all escaped.

State fire investigators have joined the Cairo Fire Department in searching for an arsonist who set ablaze a home where five people, including two young children, were sleeping Christmas Eve. That same unknown arsonist is also suspected of attempting to start another house fire nearby.
Luckily, a smoke detector woke the sleeping family around 5:40 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 24, and all were able to escape without injury.  
When the Cairo Fire Department arrived at 806 Ninth Ave. N.E., heavy smoke and flames were visible at the rear of the doublewide mobile home. Firefighters immediately began searching inside the residence but the ceiling collapsed, forcing them to retreat.
Cairo Fire Chief Donald Towne said the fire was started outside the home, with the flames traveling up the exterior siding and into the narrow attic space. The blaze destroyed the home, causing an estimated $70,000 in damages.
Firefighters, though, noticed the family’s Christmas tree at the front of the home and were able to save presents from beneath it. Chief Towne said they also saved photographs and some furniture before dousing the home with water. “I’m proud of my guys for getting in there and thinking about the children,” Towne said. He said two girls, ages 7 and 9, live at that address.
While battling that fire, the department was notified of another fire at 875 10th St. N.E., located directly behind 806 Ninth Ave. N.E. That fire was confined to the outside of the residence, and a man who lives there was able to extinguish it using a garden hose.
Chief Towne said both fires were intentionally set in the same manner, with items taken from the yards, put in piles against the homes and set ablaze. At the 9th Avenue home, it appeared that some clothing and a blanket were included in the pile used to start the fire. “It was burned pretty good. We took some samples, and the state fire marshal’s sending that off,” Towne said. He said wooden outdoor furniture and a mattress were used at the 10th Street home. Asbestos shingle siding protected that residence from catching on fire, according to the fire chief.
Although the investigation into the fires is ongoing, so far there are no suspects. A reward of up to $10,000 is offered to anyone who provides authorities with information that leads to an arrest and conviction of those responsible.
With the fires happening on Christmas Eve, many were quick to help out the now homeless family. “I was tickled to death with the outpouring from the community,” Towne said. He said the American Red Cross provided assistance while Grady County Help Agency and some local churches donated clothing for the family.
Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call 229-377-3293.

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