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Arsonists torch three barns, two abandoned houses

Kristen Swing • Oct 2, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Authorities are blaming arsonists for a series of structure fires in Washington County between 2:45 and 3:15 Monday morning. Photo by Lee Talbert.


JOHNSON CITY — Authorities are blaming arsonists for a series of structure fires in Washington County early Monday morning.

Between 2:45 and 3:15 a.m. Monday, three barns and two abandoned houses went up in flames, leaving “empty shells” and few clues as to who committed the crimes, according to Washington County Sheriff’s Office authorities.

“Every one of them went up like a tinderbox,” said WCSO Lt. Tom Remine.

“We have no leads right now, but the five fires are in a series. It was definitely pre-planned. They knew which places they were going to hit. There was definitely a route they took to do this,” said Remine.

The fires — two on Nofattie Road and one each on Clyde Miller, Roy Green and Sliger roads — left investigators and property owners searching for answers.

Around 5:30 a.m. Monday, Janie Sliger Torbett, who lives in Piney Flats, received a call from authorities who informed her that her barn on Sliger Road was on fire. By the time she arrived at the farm, the barn had burned to the ground.

“It’s really sad to get the news. I was heartbroken,” Torbett said. “My father had built that barn many years ago. Now both of my parents are deceased. This farm is his legacy. It’s been in the Sliger family since the late 1800s.”

In addition to the emotional loss, the fire also caused quite a monetary loss.

Torbett estimated there were 600 to 700 bales of hay in the barn as well as farm machinery.

“It’s crushing to see things go up in flames,” Torbett said. “If it had been from natural causes, it would have been easier to take. But knowing someone might have set the fire, that’s hard to absorb.”

Authorities believe the fires could be the work of juveniles and fear what could happen if they are not stopped.

“One of the fires almost got a house where there was a family inside. It crossed the road and went straight to their house. It melted the siding,” Remine said. “These kids have gone beyond a prank. They don’t realize what they’re doing. It’s so dry, they’re going to end up killing somebody.”

Monday’s blazes follow on the heels of a fire authorities believe might have been intentionally set last week at an abandoned building formerly used as a church and two fires set last month at abandoned houses on Kyker Tester Road in Telford.

Anyone with information regarding the recent rash of arsons is asked to contact the WCSO at 461-1414.

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