Sanford, N.C. — Four vacant homes have caught fire in east Sanford since Thursday, and authorities said Monday that they are investigating whether an arsonist is at work.
Firefighters were called to 618 Matthews St. on Thursday morning, and the following day, they had to fight a fire at 631 Matthews St. On Sunday, a home at the corner of Oakwood Avenue and Bragg Street caught fire at 1:15 a.m., and while firefighters were finishing up work on that fire, they were called to a house fire at 117 San-Lee Drive.
The four houses have different owners, and none had electricity or gas turned on, leading investigators to believe someone set the fires. Each fire also occurred during the overnight hours.
"With all of them happening in such a short span and in such a short area – within one block of each other – (arson is) a good possibility," Sanford Fire Chief Wayne Barber said. "We won't know until we can come up with some suspects."
The houses are so badly damaged that it has been difficult for investigators to collect evidence, but they were able to get a sample of a rug from one of the houses Monday to test it for traces of chemical accelerants, which would speed the spread of a fire.
The fires have nearby residents on edge.
"They need to find out who is doing and put a stop to it. It could have been mine; it could have been his," resident Walter Hill said.
Daniel Taylor said he was asleep Sunday morning when the San-Lee Drive house was burning next door. The fire was so intense that the vinyl siding on his house melted.
"(It was) real scary, real scary," Taylor said, adding that he was thankful a firefighter banged on his door to wake him up so he could get out of the house.
"It could have been the other way, I could have not woken up," he said.
Police have stepped up patrols in the area, and authorities asked that anyone with information about the fires call a tip line at 919-775-8346.