• 88°

Rash of fires sparks arson investigation

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the State Bureau of Investigation, continues to investigate a series of suspected arsons.
Firefighters battled five fires, four in Beaufort County and one in Washington County, beginning late Tuesday night and continuing into early Wednesday morning, according to the sheriff’s office. The fires were reported to the sheriff’s office or discovered by emergency-response personnel within a period of just over an hour.
Investigators believe the four fires in Beaufort County may be related to a church fire on South White Post Road near Bath on Feb. 16 and a fire at an abandoned residence on Delia Wallace Road near Bath on Saturday, related Capt. Kenneth Watson with the sheriff’s office.
Nine deputies and investigators with the sheriff’s office were involved with responding to and investigating the fires late Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, Watson said. Four SBI special agents joined numerous deputies and investigators with the sheriff’s office in continuing the investigation of the fires Wednesday, he noted.
Jennifer Canada, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Justice, said the sheriff’s office requested assistance from the SBI.
“We’re very limited on what we can comment on in regard to an ongoing investigation,” Canada said Wednesday when asked if she could provide details about the investigation.
Around 11:44 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff’s office received a report of a fire at an abandoned residence on U.S. Highway 264 near Jones Bridge Road. Firefighters with Bath and Pantego volunteer fire departments responded to battle the blaze.
At approximately 11:49 p.m., an on-duty Beaufort County deputy who was responding to assist at the fire on U.S. 264 located a second fire at an abandoned residence at 2830 Free Union Church Road in Pinetown. The Pinetown and Bunyan volunteer fire departments responded to fight the second fire.
While attempting to extinguish the fire at 2830 Free Union Church Road, firefighters received a report at approximately 12:14 a.m. of a third fire at 4204 Free Union Church Road. The property was a block structure used as a community fellowship club.
Upon arrival, fire crews from Pinetown and Bunyan found flames coming through the roof of the building and began to fight the fire.
At approximately 12:20 a.m. Wednesday, firefighters who had been fighting the fire on U.S. 264 discovered a fire at an abandoned residence on Free Union Church Road between Jones Bridge Road and Christian School Road. Bath and Pantego firefighters worked to extinguish that blaze.
Investigators and extra deputies were called out to begin investigations to determine the sources of the fires.
At 12:51 a.m. Wednesday, the sheriff ’s office received a report of a fire at an uninhabited residence at 10180 N.C. Highway 32 South in Washington County. The Pinetown and Bunyan fire departments and the Plymouth Fire Department responded to fight the fire.
Anyone with information about these fires is asked to call Beaufort County Crime Stoppers at 252-974-6400 or the Beaufort County Sheriff ’s Office at 252-946-7111. Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest in these cases. Callers do not have to give their names to receive rewards.

By the clock
11:44 p.m. Tuesday: Report of fire at abandoned residence on U.S. Highway 24 near Jones Bridge Road.
11:49 p.m. Tuesday: Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office deputy responding to fire on U.S. 264 notices fire at abandoned residence at 2830 Free Union Church Road.
12:14 a.m. Wednesday: Firefighters battling fire at 2830 Free Union Church Road receive report of a fire at a community fellowship club at 4204 Free Union Church Road.
12:20 a.m. Wednesday: Firefighters battling fire on U.S. 264 discover fire at abandoned residence on Free Union Church Road between Jones Bridge Road and Christian School Road.
12:51 a.m. Wednesday: Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office receives report of a fire at uninhabited residence at 10180 N.C. Highway 32 South in Washington County.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

email author More by Mike