The difficulties of solving arson investigations - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

The difficulties of solving arson investigations

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59 News is learning more details about an arson in our area that left about 30 people homeless.  59 News was first on the scene when the historic "Brick Row" apartments in Hinton, Summers County went up in flames in late February.  Investigators are revealing more information.

Investigators say a confrontation between Billy Joe Gill and someone who lives in one of the apartments at the "Brick Row" may have sparked the fire.  Hinton Police officials also say Gill set a family member's home on Fifth Avenue in Hinton on fire, just before setting the "Brick Row" on fire.

59 News is told the state fire marshal's office says they were called 765 times to investigate arsons last year.  In every case of arson, only 1 in 5 will be solved.

Investigators say they are stretched thin.  With the 11 investigators covering 55 counties in the state, they say it can take three days to arrive to a scene.  The state's budget is also stretched thin, so new investigators for the fire marshal's office will likely be on hold, according to fire marshal's.

By state code, if local fire investigators can not determine the origin and cause of a fire, the state fire marshal's office must be called.  State investigators get the call if someone dies, like the fatal fire in Leslie Bottom, Greenbrier County in late April.

If there's major injury or major economic loss of more than $500,000 dollars, state investigators will also be called to the scene.

People in Hinton are hoping the "Brick Row" will be torn down.  59 News has learned it is up to the owner to start the demolition process with these apartments, reduced to rubble.