'Very suspicious' fire hits Clayton house
Authorities are investigating what appears to be the ninth uninhabitated home in the Clayton area to have been intentionally set on fire since last October.Posted — Updated
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.