BUFFALO — A fire that destroyed a vacant house in Buffalo early Sunday morning is being investigated as a possible case of arson by the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
The incident report states that at 1:40 a.m. Sunday, deputies from the Sheriff’s Office along with several fire departments were dispatched to 509 Drugstore Street in the Buffalo Community in response to an active house fire. The report states that when they arrived the responding deputies noticed the house was fully engulfed in flames and firefighters were attempting to extinguish the blaze. It states that a short time later the fire was under control.
The report states the Buffalo Fire Department Fire Chief asked for an arson investigator to be dispatched to the scene because power had been shut off to the house. It states an investigator with the Sheriff’s Office arrived and then called an arson investigator to the scene. The report states the Buffalo Fire Department roped off the scene with caution tape and a deputy was posted there until the arson investigator could arrive.
The report states damage to the house totaled $20,000.
Investigator Scott Coffer of the Union County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that the investigation is continuing, but that unlike similar arson investigations in the past SLED has not been called in. Coffer said this was due to the fact that, first, SLED agents have been deployed across the state to assist in efforts to deal with Hurricane Irma. Secondly, Coffer said that normally SLED is called in because digging and sifting through the scene of a fire requires a great deal of manpower, but that in this case the fire left very little to sift through allowing Sheriff’s Office personnel to handle it themselves.
As to whether or not the fire was deliberately set, Coffer refused to speculate, pointing out that the ongoing investigation is still in its early stages. He reiterated that the investigation had been requested by the Buffalo Fire Department because the building had been vacant and without power at the time of the fire.
Buffalo Fire Chief Bryan Gardin said Monday that his department along with the Bonham and Southside fire departments were dispatched at 1:40 a.m., but that by the time the first firefighters arrived on the scene the fire was spreading rapidly. So rapidly in fact that it engulfed the entire house as firefighters were deploying their hoses to battle it.
“When the first truck arrived the back of the house up on the first and second floors was already on fire and it went up quickly until the rest of the building was fully engulfed,” Gardin said.
The fire was extremely hot, so hot that Gardin said that even standing next to a fire truck on the side facing away from the blaze he could feel the heat.
“It was so hot I could feel it burning the back of my neck,” Gardin said.
The heat generated by the fire was so intense that it actually damaged a fire truck. Gardin said that the heat melted the emergency lights on the back of the fire truck along with the running lights on the driver’s side and also damaged two rotors over the vehicle’s cab.
Gardin said he asked the Sheriff’s Office to investigate the fire after learning the building was without power.
None of the firefighters were injured battling the blaze and Gardin said the last units left the scene shortly before 10 a.m.
Gardin thanked the Bonham and Southside fire departments for their assistance and praised the members of his department for their efforts in containing and extinguishing the fire.
“I’m very proud of my guys,” Gardin said. “They handled it very well.”
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090.