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Abandoned house fire adds to growing trend

7:16 PM, Nov 28, 2012   |    comments
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Investigators are trying to figure out what sparked a fire at another abandoned home, this one nestled deep in East Knox County

The fire started around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday on Frank Merrit Lane.

"Anytime we have a home that has no power and is vacant, and it progresses this far, we're super suspicious that it could be arson," said Jeff Devlin, Battalion Fire Chief with Rural/Metro.

Neighbors told Devlin the person who lives there has been in jail.

Devlin said it feels like county crews have responded to more fires at unoccupied properties this year.

"I just personally have been on a lot of abandoned homes and fires than I have in years past, just this year. And this is just the start of the winter fire season," said Devlin.

City crews have been swamped with arson cases as well this month.

Investigators tracked down and arrested four adults and a juvenile in a sting operation. The five suspects are accused of starting more than 20 fires in a three-week steak.

"They started as nuisance fires but they were getting bolder every fire they started, with the last one being at a vacant home," said Captain D.J. Corcoran, with the Knoxville Fire Department.

Just over two weeks ago, city firefighters also tackled flames that ripped through the former Kern's Bakery distribution.

Officials said a 62-year-old homeless man was arrested for starting the fire that destroyed the old warehouse.

"Arson division did make an arrest on that one. I believe that one was due more toward madness than a means of staying warm," said Corcoran.

As for the suspicious Wednesday morning fire in East Knox County, officials are still investigating.

"We have no doubt they'll find who did it," said Devlin.

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