Arson suspected in house fire

Published 6:32 pm Wednesday, March 11, 2009

By By MaryClaire Foster
A 911 call was placed at 12:36 a.m. on Wednesday at 105 Greer Ave. when the caller reported seeing fire in their backyard.
After arriving at the scene, it was brought to the attention of the Atmore Police and Fire Departments that someone had poured gasoline on parts of the house and yard and set it on fire.
Following preliminary investigation, the Atmore Police Department has taken the next door neighbor, a 26-year-old Agustin Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant, into custody and charged him with arson in the first degree, a class A felony.
The owner of the house that was the target of arson said they did not know the suspect personally and have only seen him in passing. They said they had been hearing a "racket" coming from the neighbors' house throughout the evening and continued to when they went to bed at 9:30 p.m. After cutting on a floodlight at around 10:30 p.m., the homeowner said the racket died down, but they continued to hear noise loud enough to keep them awake until 12:30 a.m.
"I just keep hearing something that didn't sound right, and I never went to sleep," the homeowner said. "I got up around 12:30 (a.m.) and looked out and saw the grass on fire, and that's when I called the fire department. I'm just glad I decided to get up to see what the noise was."
The homeowner said besides the damage in the backyard, the front porch, along with other parts of the house, had been doused in gasoline, but only the porch had fire damage. The culprit also cut several window and door screens, in what the homeowners thought was an attempt to break in.
The carpeted back porch was also doused in gasoline, forcing the homeowners to have to rip it up.
The homeowner said they were extremely grateful to the fire department, police department, fire marshal and other involved officials for their swift and thorough action in extinguishing the fire and working to apprehend the suspect.
Atmore Police and Fire Departments will be assisting the State Fire Marshal’s Office in the investigation.

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