Fire starters in South Georgia - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fire starters in South Georgia

February 19, 2004

Albany -- Just in the last few weeks arsonists have destroyed several historic buildings in downtown Cordele and an old school in Hahira. These crimes not only destroy property, but they can also put innocent lives in danger. But what motivates these fire starters?

It's a crime that can be as deadly as a bomb going off. Causing mass destruction and leaving investigators clueless. The crime is arson.The most recent one destroyed the historic high school building in Hahria.

In July 2002 Lee State Prison inmate Robert Hughes was convicted of burning his fathers-in-law's home in Decatur County. Police say he was drunk and angry at his wife and used alcohol to torch the home. Hughes says he blacked out. When asked if it was possible that he was so drunk that he did not remember setting fire to the home Hughes replied "Yes it's possible."

As in Hughes case arsons have been often been connected with domestic violence, insurance money or are used to cover other crimes.

Arson is the a type of crime that is difficult for investigators to solve when all the keys that could lead to the perpetrator are burned up in a pile of ash. "It's really like putting a puzzle together,"says Albany Fire Chief, James Carswell. He says Albany has between 40 to 45 confirmed arsons cases each year.

Although the technology is growing allowing investigators to trace clues of fire starters a lot of the work still relies on old fashion police work. "What individual had a motive to commit the arson and then all the pieces come together,"says Carswell.

But whether pre-meditated or done in a moment of anger. The true reason that drives a person to destroy maybe never be known.

Fire officials encourage you to report any information you have in connection with suspicious fire. The state offers rewards of up to 10-thousand dollars in arson cases.

posted at 6:21PM by scott.hunter@walb.com