Originally created 11/21/00

Three fires scorch townhomes



For a third time in 36 hours, Richmond County firefighters were battling a suspicious blaze on Creekside Court late Monday.

The three fires have been ruled arson, according to Chief Fire Marshal Bobby Joyner.

Officials are still investigating a third fire, which started late Monday at 2009 Creekside Court. Firefighters responded to the fire at the condominium complex at about 10:30 p.m.

The second floor of 2009 was gutted, and flames had burned through the roof. The unit had been damaged the night before during one of the previous fires.

This was the third time in two nights that Mike Gouge had Richmond County Fire trucks parked in front of his townhome.

On Sunday, Mr. Gouge watched as fire damaged the condominium to the right of him, then the one to the left.

By early Monday, fire officials said both fires had been intentionally set within a few hours of each other in vacant townhomes at 2017 and 2011 Creekside Court off Buckhaven Lane.

"There are some similarities, but it is really hard to say if they are connected at this point," said Lt. Rick Smith, who is leading the investigation of the two Sunday fires. "I think there is too much of a coincidence...for there not to be some kind of connection."

Investigators do not know how the fires were started, Lt. Smith said.

Firefighters were first called to the Bertram Court townhomes at 6:30 p.m. Sunday: A neighbor had spotted smoke and flames inside the kitchen of 2017 Creekside Court.

Mr. Gouge, who lives at 2015 Creekside, said Sunday he heard the fire alarm next door and went through an unlocked front door carrying a hose to fight the flames until the fire department arrived. He said water and smoke seeped into his apartment from the fire next door.

"The smell is pretty bad," he said, dressed in Medical College of Georgia scrubs and illuminated by the flashing red, white and blue lights of emergency vehicles.

At 10:46 p.m., firefighters were called to 2011 Creekside, which is at the end of a six-unit complex. By the time they reached the area, the fire had broken through the roof of the two-story structure, bubbling and crimping the vinyl siding of Mr. Gouge's townhome.

"I had just gotten back and finished the first report (when we got the second call)," Capt. Rick Davis said.

The fire did extensive damage to 2011 Creekside and the unit next door 2009. There, firefighters had to break through a bathroom wall to battle the blaze.

None of the three townhomes had electricity, firefighters said.

They also said fire damage was mostly contained to individual units because the townhomes have thick walls of sheetrock and insulation to dampen noise.

Staff Writer Albert Ross contributed to this article.

Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.