Local News

Fears grow over suspicious Johnston fires

Posted October 9, 2010 5:58 p.m. EDT
Updated October 10, 2010 3:29 p.m. EDT

— Fear and frustration are spreading in Johnston County as the list of suspicious fires in the county grows longer.

Since April, more than 20 fires have been set in barns and vacant houses in the southern part of the county. More than a dozen other fires have been reported in the Smithfield and Clayton areas since last year.

"It's worrisome, you know. It's my community," said Rachel Wright, who lives near a foreclosed house in Four Oaks that was burned Friday.

The Johnston County fire marshal hasn't yet released the cause of Friday's fire. Investigators with the Johnston County Sheriff's Office said they've just begun comparing the county fires to those in Smithfield.

Investigators said they don't believe there is any connection between the fires in Four Oaks and Smithfield to the the Clayton fires.

"It used to be, you heard about it and went on about your business, but you don't anymore. It's right here," nearby resident Alice Turnage said.

Gladys Crocker can see the crime scene tape, burned wood and blackened bricks from Friday's fire from her front porch. She said she's frustrated that no criminal charges have been filed in the fires.

"This one is right at your doorsteps, and you wonder, 'Where is everybody? Why can't somebody see it?'" Crocker said. "If you see anything, please report it because you never know. You never know where it will be next."

Neighbors said Friday's fire is particularly disheartening because they had seen crews working on new decking for the house, and they thought a family would be moving in soon.

"A lot of folks say, if they (the arsonists) get tired of not seeing any action, it could very well go to homes with people in them," Crocker said. "That would be bad (because there are) older folks by themselves or families with children."