UPDATE: Witness Sees Man with Gas Can Before Fire Breaks Out

By: Brooks Jarosz; Brad Myers Email
By: Brooks Jarosz; Brad Myers Email

UPDATE 6/18/12 @ 6 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Investigators with the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's office were back on the scene Monday of a house fire that has been ruled arson. Officials say it's the 53rd report of arson in Huntington since last November.

"It settled down a little bit, but now it appears as if it's ramping up again," Assistant State Fire Marshal Brad Hartley said. "We're concerned that somebody is going to get hurt."

Investigators are looking for evidence to back up a neighbor's claims that a man walked into the home on 26th Street on Sunday with a gas can -- and left moments before flames destroyed the abandoned home.

"This is the first (arson) where we had eyewitnesses come forward and state what they saw," Hartley said.

Officials with the state Fire Marshal's Office are working hard to track down evidence that could lead to an arrest, but say until then, the psychological effects of the fire on the community can be just as damaging as the flames themselves.

"Arson is a violent crime," Hartley said. "It unnerves the entire community. It disrupts people's lives and takes away their sense of security in their community. It makes it difficult for them to live their lives and be happy, and not worry about things when they have people doing this next to their homes or their kids and pets."

Ending the recent threats of arson are priority one for investigators. While it's a tough task, it must be done before one of these fires end in tragedy, investigators say.

"Hopefully we can catch whoever is doing this before someone does get killed," Hartley said.

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A witness told fire officials she spotted a man with a five gallon gas can just before a home went up in flames.

The abandoned home near 8th Avenue went up in flames late Sunday afternoon, according to fire officials.

Firefighters tell WSAZ.com the fire is suspicious, like several arsons in that part of the city in recent months.

A witness, who did not want to be identified, says she saw it all happen beginning with two men approaching the home near 26th Street in a light colored van.

She describes one man driving off in the van and the other going inside the house with a five-gallon gasoline can. A few minutes later she says the man came outside empty-handed, walking casually toward the Fairfield East Community Center.

"Why would he be carrying a gas can up this hill? And within three to five minutes here he comes again and he don't have the gas can," she said. "And Dad, he turned around and I said, 'There the guy goes and he don't have a gas can with him.'"

The witness added, "Within a few minutes here comes the smoke. I said, 'Debbie I've got to get off here, they've set Ms. Adkins' house on fire or the one next door on fire.'"

Fire investigators are looking into how the fire started. No word on if there are any potential suspects yet.

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