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'Very suspicious' fire hits Clayton house

Posted September 19, 2010
Updated September 25, 2010

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— Authorities are investigating what appears to be the ninth uninhabited home in the Clayton area to have been intentionally set on fire since last October.

Callers reported a fire at an abandoned house at 738 Strickland Road, near Swift Creek Road, around 11 p.m. Saturday. Crews from surrounding towns, including Wilson Mills, Smithfield and Selma, responded, along with Smithfield and Johnston County EMS.

Nearby residents said they were woken up by firefighters knocking on their doors. Cinders from the fire landed on their roof, residents said, so they wet it down with a garden hose.

“We were really scared because we didn't know what was on fire," resident Jackie Seare said. "We were relieved to find that it was not anything in the neighborhood."

The fire rekindled around 3:30 a.m., but firefighters extinguished it.

“It was a little fire, and all of a sudden it spread all over the house,” resident Daniel Gutierez said.

Wilson Mills Fire Chief Ricky Barbour said that the fire is considered "very suspicious." The house had been abandoned for decades and had no power.

Barbour said that authorities and the landowner are taking steps to secure other abandoned homes along Strickland and Swift Creek roads.

Johnston County Fire Marshal Chris Perry said that investigators don't believe the fire is related to another string of arson fires at uninhabited homes in the Clayton area. He, Clayton police and fire officials from Wilson Mills and Clayton will meet to review evidence.

Meanwhile, Johnston County sheriff's deputies were interviewing neighbors.

Since Oct. 31, 2009, eight other homes that are abandoned or under construction in the Clayton area have been set on fire.

Saturday's fire was three miles from the Glen Laurel subdivision, where arson is suspected in fires at three homes under construction. The most recent fire happened early Monday.

Clayton police and the State Bureau of Investigation have been investigating possible links between the fires. A $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to arrests and convictions in the cases.

Anyone with information about the fires should call Clayton police at 919-553-4611 or Clayton Crime Stoppers at 919-359-8479.

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office has also been investigating a series of 11 fires at barns and abandoned homes since February. Those fires, around Four Oaks and Bentonville in southwestern parts of the county, have not been linked to the Clayton area fires.

Locations of suspicious fires around Clayton, as of Sept. 19, 2010

View Clayton arson fires in a larger map


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  • john283594 Sep 20, 2010

    The Clayton serial arsonist strikes again. It's been about 3 years of these fires starting with the church that was burned down twice...Time to call in the ATF?

  • cwood3 Sep 20, 2010

    JKA-it's still a scary situation. WE have been blessed that no one has gotten hurt in any of these Glen Laurel fires. However, with arson, that can change!!

    folks in the back part of Glen Laurel are scared to death every time they hear a siren.

  • JKA07 Sep 20, 2010

    "Saturday's fire was three miles from the Glen Laurel subdivision, where arson is suspected in..."
    WRAL, please check your mapping. The Strickland Rd fire and the Glen Laurel subdivision is more than 7 miles away...Also, this area is closer to Wilson Mills town limits than Clayton town limits...