A third suspicious fire in five weeks at the Lake Collins community northwest of Portal has neighbors, including Bulloch County fire Chief Christopher Ivey, unsettled.
Around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, a lakeside doublewide mobile home at the end of Bowen Road suffered smoke and fire damage after a suspicious blaze ignited the home from underneath, Ivey said. The home was just a short distance from his own home and within walking distance of two other mobile homes that were destroyed by suspicious fires in March.
Those homes - one on Lake Collins Road at the intersection with Lakeside Drive, the other on Lakeside Drive - were destroyed within two days, according to reports.
Ivey said the state fire marshal's office investigated each fire, but "there was no evidence of arson."
Bulloch County sheriff's Investigator Dusty Williams, who investigated the first two fires and said Monday that he plans to meet with Ivey to discuss the third, said there was not enough left of the first home, owned by Midget Calhoun, for the state fire marshal to investigate. There had been no electrical service hooked up to the vacant home, and the family had expected to close on its sale the day after the fire.
The second fire occurred when the homeowner was inside, and neighbors were able to help her escape. Again, Williams said that fire marshals could not locate any evidence of arson or a definite cause of the blaze, which was ruled "undetermined." The victim reportedly told bystanders that she saw the fire "on her porch" when it first started.
According to a Bulloch County sheriff's incident report written by Cpl. Jody Deal, the owner of the property that caught fire Saturday said that someone had moved logs that were in his yard, where he had removed some trees, to a spot close to the mobile home, then set them on fire. The flames burned part of the yard and the home, according to the report.
Williams said neighbors saw nothing, but one woman said she heard four-wheelers in the area.
Ivey said he could not determine whether accelerant was used but said "I feel certain" the fire was intentionally set. However, until the fire marshal's inspection, the fire has yet to be ruled arson.
"It definitely makes you wonder," he said. "There is definitely a pattern going on. Three houses in a five-week period? It is highly suspicious."
He said that he hopes someone who may know something about the fires will call in with a tip. The call can be anonymous, he said.
Anyone who has seen anything suspicious or who may know who started the fires is asked to call Ivey at (912) 489-1661 or Williams at (912) 764-8888.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.