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Posted: July 24, 2012 9:43 p.m.

Man arrested after Gaither Street fire

Richard Douglas Norton, 31, was arrested late Tuesday in connection with a fire that destroyed the home at 3126 Gaither St. earlier in the day.

Norton was one of the renters and, at this time, is believed to have set the fire for insurance purposes. He was arrested in Athens and charged with obstruction of justice Tuesday, but Assistant Fire Marshall said he planned to bring three other charges against Norton today including insurance fraud, arson in the first degree and criminal damage of property.

Norton lived in the home with another man, who was arrested for an outstanding warrant on an unrelated issue and was not expected to be charged in connection with the fire.

The 1,008 square-foot home, built in 1946, was valued at $60,100 according to the Newton County Tax Assessor's Office, and Assistant Fire Chief David Gunter said the home and all of its contents were a total loss. The value of the contents was not known Tuesday. The house sits on 0.1 acres and the carport was 192 square feet.

The truck also sustained significant damage, including a busted out window and structural and paint damage to the body and roof. Gunter didn't know if the truck was a total loss as well.

The fire department received the call around 3:20 a.m. from a Covington police officer, and though initial reports said someone might be in the building because a truck was parked in the carport, the house turned out to be unoccupied, Gunter said.

"(Firefighters) went inside and the primary and secondary search was all clear, so we were thankful for that," Gunter said, noting firefighters had the fire under control about 20 to 30 minutes after arrival.

Gunter said officials continued to investigate the scene throughout the day looking for a cause given the fact the home was unoccupied and the fact the fire happened early in the morning.

Gaither Street is located between Conyers Street and Thompson Avenue.

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