Authorities are investigating after a home on Magnolia Street in Catoosa County, Georgia, caught fire early Tuesday morning. They say it is the third suspicious fire to be set at a home in the Lakeview community in recent weeks.
The first two homes to catch fire earlier this summer were vacant and undergoing renovations, but the residence on Magnolia Street was not empty. According to Catoosa County spokesperson John Pless, a family was inside the home at the time the fire was set but were able to make it out safely after noticing smoke in the air. They suffered no injuries, but Pless called the damage to the home "extensive."
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"Fortunately Catoosa County firefighters got there quickly and were able to save much of the house itself," he said in a phone interview. "There was significant damage and many of the belongings inside the home were lost, but the family was able to get out safely. Thankfully, they are all OK."
In all three fires, Pless said, the flames appear to have been deliberately started outside near the homes during the "pre-dawn hours of the day."
When investigators arrived to try and find the source of the Magnolia Street fire, he said it was clear it was set in the driveway, then spread up the side of the home and into the attic. He also said all three homes are located within just a few blocks of each other in Rossville, "still in Catoosa County, but very close to the Walker County line."
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"To be clear, we do not know that these fires are connected, Pless said. "We have not determined that, but we are considering it a possibility."
The Georgia state fire marshal and Georgia Arson Control are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for any of the fires. Specificially, investigators are looking for security camera images and video footage showing any suspicious or out-of-the-ordinary activity, particularly during early morning hours.
"We want people to be more aware for their own safety but also so they can let us know if they notice anyone or anything strange," Pless said. "Folks living in that area are understandably a little shaken up by all of this, as are we. We're going to find whoever is responsible."
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Tips can be reported to the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 800-282-5804 or the Catoosa County Fire Department at 706-861-4194.
Contact Kelcey Caulder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.