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Reward offered for information on suspicious Clayton fires

A string of suspicious fires in Clayton have prompted local property owners to beef up security at construction sites.

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CLAYTON, N.C. — The Clayton Police Department on Monday offered a reward of more than $10,000 for information on a series of fires in recent months that authorities believe were set.

Two Clayton homes burned Sunday, marking the sixth and seventh fires in buildings under construction in the Clayton area since the end of October.

"It's just very suspicious that we have all these fires in this area," Capt. John Coley of the Clayton Police Department said.

The fires have prompted local property owners to beef up security at construction sites. Some builders said they planned to lock crawl spaces under unoccupied homes, while others have discussed installing alarms, trip wires and motion-activated lights.

"There's not but so much that can be done with a home under construction, open to the environment and open to everyone," said Neil Jarman, president of the Home Builders Association of Johnston County.

Still, Jarman said, the group is considering drawing up a list of tips for securing construction sites and sending them out to builders. When the association meets Tuesday, the suspicious fires will be a major topic of discussion, he said.

"I hope we can find whoever it is whose doing this," he said.

The State Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Clayton police and Clayton and Johnston County fire marshals are investigating the cause and origin of the fires.

Authorities believe the following fires have been set:

  • 12 Cameo Court, on Oct. 31 and Dec. 15
  • 47 Cameo Court, on Oct. 31
  • 102 Rolling Meadows, on Jan. 18
  • 116 Rolling Meadows, on Jan. 18
  • 137 Skygrove Drive, on May 2
  • 151 Skygrove Drive, on May 2
Suspicious Clayton fires

On April 5, a fire ripped through a day-care center under construction in the 3100 block of Vinson Road. A 13-year-old boy who lives in the area was charged in that case.

"One of the hardest things to overcome is the anger with the whole situation," said Lois Stephenson, the owner of the center. "How can someone be so destructive with someone else's property and not care?"

Even with the arrest in her case, Stephenson has hired security to check on the construction site as she rebuilds the center, and she keeps lights on at the site from dusk till dawn.

"You feel unsafe and vulnerable with this going on in your community," she said.

Anyone who observed suspicious activity or has other information about the fire should call Clayton police at 919-553-4611 or Clayton Crime Stoppers at 919-359-8479.



Tom Normanly, Photographer
Matthew Burns, Web Editor

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