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Posted: March 18, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Blaze set outside Newton gas station

A pile of men's clothing set on fire in front of a gas pump was the cause of a blaze early Monday morning at a Chevron off of Ga. Highway 81. Newton County Fire officials are hoping that someone noticed the person responsible.

Firefighters were able to contain the fire to one gas pump where the fire melted the plastic surrounding the pump and a garbage can before being extinguished.

"Most of the pumps are electric," said Deputy Chief Tim Smith, "but there is still some residual gasoline left in the lines. When the clothing was lit it could very well have caught that line on fire and been a lot worse than what it was. Watching the surveillance tapes the fire was quite large at one time. We were lucky it wasn't a lot worse."

The clothing is currently being analyzed to see what, if any, accelerant was used to start the fire.

The station does have video cameras and there is surveillance of the firebug, though they are unable to tell at this point if the person is male or female. The video will be enhanced and that will, hopefully, show firefighters their culprit. Fire officials were able to determine that the clothing belonged to a man, making them think the fire may be a domestic incident. Employees of the store are being questioned to see if any of them can think of a suspect in the fire.

"Normally, if there is something burning that belongs to a man or a woman our first thoughts are that it may be a male/female issue. That's what this points to, but we certainly have not ruled anything out as of yet. We currently have a person or persons of interest that we are speaking with, but we are still looking for input from the community."

Smith also said that fire officials have no reason to believe that this fire and the one on Baxter Street are connected at all.

Anyone with information about this incident is being asked to contact the NCFS at (770) 784-2116 or the Georgia Insurance and Fire Safety Arson Hotline at 1-800-282-5804. This includes citizens who may have noticed anything suspicious outside the store prior to the fire. Callers can remain anonymous and there are rewards for the arrest and conviction of arsonists.


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