By CHRISTINA RITCHIE ROGERS
The charred structure of a house damaged in a fire April 8 on Meadow Crossing Lane was set on fire again early Saturday morning. It follows a May 31 arson fire on the same road, in the Glenridge neighborhood, and was the third suspicious fire set on that road since April.
When firefighters arrived on the scene shortly before 5 a.m., “the whole interior of the structure was on fire,” Cornelius Firefighter Cale Ervin said. Though the home, at 10250 Meadow Crossing Lane, had been severely damaged in April, it had not yet been demolished and part of the frame, bits of insulation and interior debris remained. The house is owned by Ernest and Terry Jeffries. Ernest is a pastor at Gethsemane Baptist Church pastor and assistant dean of student life at Davidson College.
Four Cornelius fire trucks, two Davidson trucks and two Huntersville trucks responded to the scene and managed to put out the fire in under 30 minutes, Mecklenburg County Assistant Fire Marshal Jeff Bostian said.
As of 5:30 Saturday morning, he had not finished the official inspection of the scene, but he said preliminary examination suggested the fire had been intentionally set.
“Once something burns it’s hard for it to catch fire again,” he said. The original fire at the house burned months ago, so there would have been no residual embers, he said, and there is no longer a power source of any kind that could have sparked a fire. Also, there are a lot of similarities between Saturday’s fire and the previous fires on that road, he said.
“It’s the same modus operandi as the others,” Mr. Bostian said. As with the other house fires, Saturday’s started on the left side of the home in the early morning hours.
The siding of the neighbor’s home, which had been damaged in the April fire, was further damaged Saturday morning. The homeowner was at home with his wife and newborn baby at the time, Mr. Bostian said. Nobody was injured.
Mr. Bostian said he would be digging through every layer of debris, once it cooled enough, in order to collect evidence and look for clues.
While officials are still working to determine the exact cause of the April fire, which started in a recycling bin along the side of the house at 10246 Meadow Crossing Lane and then spread next door, investigators say the circumstances of that fire are “suspicious.” Officials determined that the May fire, which burned a vacant home at 10211 Meadow Crossing Lane, was the result of arson after they found accelerant and burned clothing at the scene. All three incidents follow a fire in December, just down the road, at 10524 Meadow Crossing Lane, in which someone lit a wicker chair on fire while it was on the porch.
Since May, Cornelius Police and fire officials have launched an arson investigation, have increased patrols in Glenridge and surrounding neighborhoods and have met with residents to discuss safety tips and encourage them to remain on the lookout for anything suspicious.
While police have not yet identified a suspect in the case, they have identified several persons of interest, officials say.
“Everyone needs to be aware of their surroundings in their community,” Mr. Bostian said. “Notice who’s there and who’s not there. It’s going to take somebody seeing something.”