Mike Gouge saw the Richmond County Fire Department twice Sunday: first at the condominium to the right of him, then at the condominium 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 on 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's leading the investigation. "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 6:20 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 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 had 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 a dozen 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. 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.
"And sheetrock will stop a fire," Battalion Chief Michael Weathers said.
In all, 21 firefighters, four pumper trucks and two ladder trucks responded to the fires, Battalion Chief Weathers said.
As residents from nearby developments gathered to watch the blaze Sunday night, many said they hadn't had any problems with vandals in the area. Mr. Gouge, who's lived in the townhomes for about six months, said he didn't plan on moving.
"It's still a nice place to live," he said.
Staff Writer Albert Ross contributed to this article.
Reach Jason B. Smith at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 115.
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