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Smithfield home catches fire

A police officer found the flames shooting from a vacant home at 903 Hancock St. around 1:45 a.m.

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — Smithfield investigators are trying to determine what started a house fire early Thursday.

A police officer saw flames shooting from a vacant home at 903 Hancock St. around 1:45 a.m.

No one was injured.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined. Investigators said they are not sure if the fire is connected to a string of unsolved arson cases in Johnston County.

In the past year, 35 suspicious fires have been reported in the county.

Smithfield has seen six suspicious fires since August, including two at the same boarding house, three at vacant homes up for sale and one at a recycling plant. Clayton has reported nine fires since October 2009, mostly in new houses or houses under construction. Since April, 20 fires have been set in barns and vacant houses in the southern part of Johnston County.

Fire marshals, Smithfield and Clayton police and the Johnston County Sheriff's Office are working together to investigate the blazes.

As well, Clayton and Smithfield have been working with the State Bureau of Investigation. A $5,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for any or all of these fires.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Smithfield Police Department at 919-934-2121 or confidentially on the department's tip line at 919-989-8835.

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Kathy Hanrahan, Web Editor

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