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An early-morning fire destroyed a home in Eclectic around 2 a.m. Saturday. Photo by Willie E. Mosley
An early-morning fire destroyed a home in Eclectic around 2 a.m. Saturday. Photo by Willie E. Mosley

Eclectic struck by 2 arsons in one week

Published 11:37am Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Alabama State Fire Marshal’s Office confirmed Thursday that two unconnected fires were intentionally set in Eclectic over a five-day period.

The first, a towering blaze that destroyed a historic home on the 900 block of Claud Road early Saturday morning, was officially ruled first-degree arson by the State Fire Marshal Wednesday afternoon.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said the ongoing investigation “determined the fire is an arson case and (we) have begun an active criminal investigation” of first-degree arson.

The fire rises to first-degree arson, he said, because the home was occupied by Vanessa Freeman, her 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, and two adult friends. Samples taken from the site of the fire tested positive for an accelerant, according to Eclectic Fire Chief Adam Graham.

Paulk declined further comment on the case due to the ongoing nature of the investigation.

Thursday, investigators from the fire marshal’s office confirmed a blaze that gutted the rear of a manufactured home on North Ann Street was also arson.

Paulk said an investigation by the Elmore County Sheriff’s Department and a deputy fire marshal “found evidence that items were removed from the residence before it was set on fire.”

The rear of the home, located near North Ann Street’s intersection with East Cotton Road, was heavily damaged by fire and smoke. The front half received heavy smoke damage, Graham said.

“There is no evidence to indicate (the two fires are) connected,” Paulk said, despite the rare occurrence of two intentional fires in such a small town over a short time frame.

The Claud Road blaze, which could easily have ended in tragedy, seemed suspicious from the start, according to resident Vanessa Freeman.

She woke to a loud noise around 2 a.m. Saturday and saw smoke covering the floor and said the fire seemed suspicious.

“It started on the outside, not on the inside,” she said Thursday. “And there was nothing on the back side of the house that would cause it to catch on fire.”

By the time firefighters reached the scene, flames towered into the night sky and the house was “fully involved,” Graham said.

Freeman and the others in the home evacuated safely.

Investigators declined to provide any further details on either fire.

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