People who live in an Albany high-rise apartment building say they are relieved to know the man charged with setting their building on fire is now behind bars. 54-year old James Ballard is charged with first degree arson. Investigators say he set as many as six fires in the Albany Heights building downtown on March 27th.
Terrell County jail administrators saw our breaking news alert this morning about Ballard being wanted in Dougherty County, and called Investigators to let them they had him in custody.
Ballard, who was arrested by Terrell County Sheriff's Deputies Sunday, and charged with leaving the scene of a car crash on Highway 520 at Opal Lane.
Dougherty County Fire and Albany Police Investigators Monday night issued warrants charging him with first degree arson. Investigators say Ballard had been a suspect, when he drove around fire trucks responding to the Albany Heights fire.
Albany Fire Chief James Carswell said, "We had worked through his alibis. We have actually looked at all the cameras. Albany Bank and Trust next door had a camera in the back we were able to pull up Mr. Ballard on the back of the property that evening. So we know he was there."
Investigators say Ballard had been evicted from Albany Heights the week before the fires. People who live at the Albany Heights say they were not surprised that Ballard was charged. They say he had returned several times to the area, issuing threats.
Today they said they are relieved he is behind bars. Mary Bell said, "I don't have any fear now, but it was fear when I first came back. The first night really because I didn't know if he might do it again."
Donna Parker said "Yes, because I've been afraid. Our Pastor came and put us up in a hotel room. And I was afraid to come back because I was afraid he would come back."
40 people, many seniors and handicapped, had to be evacuated after as many as six small fires were set that night.
"Obviously he had to be aware that the building was occupied. And his actions could have contributed to their injury and possibly even their deaths. Those things will be brought out in the investigation," Carswell said.
Chief Carswell said more charges could be pending. Investigators are looking for what could be a second person involved in the arson.
Carswell says a second person can be seen in some of the downtown camera's surveillance video with Ballard that night.
Ballard remains in the Terrell County jail. Dougherty County officials are not sure when he'll be transferred back to Albany.