Hinton man charged with arson for massive blaze
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Hinton man apparently used kerosene to accelerate a fire that engulfed 10 apartment units early Tuesday after a woman wouldn't let him in her apartment, police said.
Billy Joe Gill, 25, of Summers Street, was charged with first-degree arson in connection to a fire at 815 Temple St. in Hinton. Police said he's the prime suspect in a separate arson set earlier that morning.
At about 1:24 a.m., Hinton Police Officer T.D. McClung responded to a blaze at 112 5th Ave. in Hinton. The owner, Jeanie Adkins, was outside and said Gill had been at her house and wanted to get in. She refused and later awoke to a fire on her front porch, according to a criminal complaint filed in Summers County Magistrate Court.
At about 1:55 a.m., McClung was dispatched to another fire at an apartment complex known as Brick Row on Temple Street.
Hinton Fire Chief Ray Pivont said the fire accelerated rapidly and destroyed all 10 units. Everyone escaped injury, but about eight people living there lost everything.
Firefighters found a residential trashcan ablaze with kerosene in an alley near the complex, according to the complaint. Pivont said how the fire started is still under investigation, but it began somewhere near the rear of the complex.
Jennifer Goodman lived in one apartment with her boyfriend, her sister and her three small children.
"I smelled smoke and jumped up. It was burning from the basement," Goodman said. "My boyfriend tried to get the fire out using wastebaskets full of water."
She briefly lost track of her middle child but later found him safe on the third floor. Her boyfriend barely escaped injury, she said. Together they ran up and down the hall waking their neighbors.
Police later learned that Gill was at another apartment along Temple Street on Tuesday morning.
Officer McClung responded and met with Granville Lee Martin, who yelled through the door to come to his back bedroom, according to the criminal complaint.
McClung walked to the bedroom and saw Gill sitting on the bed beside Martin, wearing rubber gloves, according to the criminal complaint. McClung smelled a strong kerosene odor.
Gill was arrested and is currently being held in Southern Regional Jail.
Hinton Police Chief Derek Snavely posted a statement to the police department's Facebook page thanking firefighters, police and emergency responders. He said officials were working to bring aid to those who lost their homes on Tuesday.
"I know today marks a day in history that many will never forget, as we lost nearly a dozen homes, but we are so fortunate that none of our citizens or first responders were injured in today's events," he wrote.
Pivont said both fires were contained in about three hours. The fire at 112 5th Ave. destroyed most of the home's front porch. The fire at 815 Temple St. was still burning and would continue to smolder for at least another week, he said.
The state Fire Marshal's Office is investigating. Rick Steelhammer contributed to this report. Reach Travis Crum at email@example.com or 304-348-5163.