RFD suspects arson in 200-acre blaze

March 17, 2011 • Local News

A mid-afternoon blaze that swept through at least 200 acres of land just south of Roswell Wednesday, may have been an act of arson, fire officials said.

Emergency crews from across the county responded to the fire that threatened numerous homes but was contained before destroying any residences, officials said.

“Just about every county department had a truck out here,” said Chief James Salas, of the Roswell Fire Department, adding that the blaze could have consumed up to 500 acres.

Salas said [auth] it may have been intentionally set because a suspicious fire started in the same area on Tuesday.

He said it destroyed at least one outbuilding and that several firefighters sustained minor injuries, however no serious injuries were reported.

The blaze broke out at about 3 p.m. in a field near Orchard Park and Cherokee Road, in Dexter. It was contained by about 5:30 p.m., however, crews were still mopping up the scene at least an hour later.

The state’s Forestry Division added that hot temperatures and low humidity made conditions favorable for the fire to burn actively, despite relatively low winds. The blaze threatened a number of homes, including one house near the corner of Vineyard and Vista Largo roads, where the flames crept to within 20 to 30 feet of the structure.

“I was pretty calm at first, but then the wind started to pick up,” said Caleb Smith, who lives at the home with his parents Rhonda and Robert.

After being told about the fire by his mother, Caleb Smith hopped on a tractor and trimmed as much of the tall grass he could that was closest to their house. He said he wasn’t too worried until the blaze headed right for their home.

“It was real then. We thought we were going to lose our house,” said Rhonda Smith. “I was in there praying all through this that it would stop (before getting to the house).”

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