Local News

Arsonist May Be at Work in Sampson County

Posted April 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A total of eight buildings have burned in Sampson County since January and three more broke out Tuesday night. Residents are wary and authorities believe a single arsonist or group of arsonists could be responsible.

The first Tuesday fire gutted a house near Newton Grove. Within minutes, flames were discovered at Dunn Brothers Motors, just down the street. Shortly after, a third fire broke out at an Amoco station in Newton Grove.

When the Johnson family's house burned Tuesday night it was the second time they'd been hit. Their barn was burned by an arsonist a few months ago.

Wednesday morning investigators returned to the scenes. The fires are eerily reminiscent of blazes that occurred one night in January.

Then, two fires broke out just two miles and 16 minutes apart. Nine fire stations were called out to deal with a warehouse and a shed full of antiques. Arson was subsequently determined as the cause.

Last night, Dunn Motors main building was saved, but a building addition and a nearby camper sustained severe damage, possibly totaling $50,000.

Dunn Motors' co-owner Ben Dunn said he heard the first blaze announced on a police scanner he monitors from home. The next fire call was to his own business, and that's when he dashed downtown to see what was happening.

All of the fires have been within a 10-mile radius of Newton Grove.

Area merchants have gotten together to offer a $1,000 reward to anyone who provides police with information leading to an arrest. The number to call is 910-594-0829.