Authorities in Macon County are turning to the public for help in solving a string of fires that have ensued over the past month. On Monday, Franklin Police Chief David Adams said that with no solid leads to go on, investigators are asking the public to notify the police station with any information regarding suspicious behavior or activity.
The string of fires began about a month ago and have all been in a relatively close proximity to one another, according to Franklin Fire Chief Warren Cabe.
The first fire incident occurred about a month ago in a dumpster near the Good Will store. The fire was discovered around midnight, slightly damaging some trailers nearby according to reports.
The second fire occurred about a week later at the Board of Education property. A vehicle that was separated from other vehicles in the parking lot and which had not been driven in a number of days, was set on fire. According to Cabe, the fire did not appear to ignite in the vehicle's engine compartment, leading authorities to believe the fire was intentional.
A week later, the third reported fire torched an abandoned home near Trimont Christian Academy and because of the close proximity of the fires and the fact that all the incidents occurred around the same time each night, officials began an investigation.
“The first structure fire was suspicious because the home that was on fire has no power source and had been vacant for some time,” said Cabe. “There was no evident way the fire could have happened accidentally.”
The third fire was the first structure blaze, which occurred at 98 Promise Lane around 11:45 p.m on a Tuesday, completely destroying the building. Franklin Fire and Rescue was assisted by West Macon and Clarks Chapel Fire Departments in order to contain the fire.
Just days after the Promise Lane fire, authorities were dispatched shortly after midnight to another structure fire in a vacant home near the old county garage located on Old Murphy Road.
“We didn't see anything for about a week or so after the vacant home near the old county garage, but then last Tuesday morning, shortly after midnight, we got another call,” said Cabe. Crews from Franklin Fire and Rescue were called to another fire at 49 Bulgin Drive.
“When we arrived on scene, the house was engulfed in flames,” said Cabe. “There were no occupants in the residence We cleared the scene a little before 5 a.m and declared the structure a total loss.”
According to Cabe, the home was vacant and currently in foreclosure. “This was the first fire that we saw that created a problem outside of the actual incident,” said Cabe. “The Bulgin Drive blaze caused damage to a neighboring home.”
The flames and smoke billowing from the vacant home were so extreme, there were reports that the neighboring house may have been on fire as well, but Cabe confirmed it was only a single structure with no injuries being reported.
Cabe said each of these incidents were suspicious and under investigation by Franklin Police Investigator Mark Foster. Chief Adams confirmed that the Franklin Police are working with the fire marshal, arson investigators and the State Bureau of Investigation to solve the cases.
“We do not have anything substantial to go on at this time, and encourage anyone with any information to contact our office,” said Adams. “With nothing else found at this point to be the cause of the fires, arson is definitely a possibility because we don't see how it could not be.”
In the same time frame, two additional fires have been reported, but have been identified as not being related to the incidents under investigation for arson. Last Tuesday, after Franklin Fire and Rescue responded to the fire on Bulgin Drive, a second fire reportedly destroyed a Franklin home Tuesday afternoon.
Crews were dispatched to 223 Gaston Street at 8:45 p.m. to find a singlewide mobile home in flames. Cabe reported that the two adult occupants were able to escape the fire without harm. Reports show the cause of the second fire last Tuesday was traced to the kitchen area and appears to be accidental.
Monday afternoon shortly after 4 p.m., West Macon Fire and Rescue were dispatched to 101 Calico Drive in reference to a “structure fire with an occupant still inside.” Franklin Fire and Rescue and Clarks Chapel Fire and Rescue were also dispatched for mutual aid.
According to West Macon Fire and Rescue Chief Josh Randall, upon arrival crews observed heavy smoke coming from the two-story brick, single family residence. Just five minutes after receiving the call, crews arrived on scene and reported that two occupants has escaped the building and were outside.
Fire crews began an interior search, and within approximately 10 minutes of arrival, found a victim trapped on the second story of the home. When crews located the victim trapped inside the home, the victim, Erin Crawford, was found to be deceased. The two occupants who were able to escape, were treated on scene on by Macon County EMS, with one of the occupants being transported to Angel Medical Center for treatment of minor burns.
A request was put in to the Otto and Cullasaja departments for more manpower and tanker support to extinguish the flames. The house was reported a total loss. The scene was cleared at 7:36 p.m. and has since been turned over to the Macon County Sheriff's Department and the State Bureau of Investigation for investigation into the cause of the fire.
If you have any information regarding these incidents or noticed any suspicious activity in these areas recently, please contact Franklin Police or Macon County Crime Stoppers at (828)349-2600.