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2 charged in fire at vacant home

POSTED: April 2, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Two men have been charged in connection with a fire March 26 at a vacant home.

Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said Monday the two homeless men were staying at the house and started a fire that night to warm themselves. Both Donald Bonner and Robert W. Watson sustained smoke inhalation and minor burns and were treated at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Bonner and Watson both were charged with reckless conduct, criminal trespass and criminal damage to property. Watson was also charged with obstruction of a firefighter and lying about his identity, Cagle said. The arrests were made in conjunction with the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

“I hate to charge the folks,” Cagle said. “They were just trying to keep warm. But you make a bad decision like that, it puts other folks’ homes in danger, it puts firefighters in danger.”

Cagle said the men were not charged with arson because they had no malicious intent to set the house ablaze.

“We believe this was two men trying to keep warm on a cold night,” he said in a news release. “Although we have compassion for these men, their bad decisions put a lot of people at danger and there must be consequences to their actions.”

The fire was extinguished by Hall County Fire Services and the Gainesville Fire Department, which provides automatic aid to the area. The first calls told of a house fully involved with multiple exposures near the fire. Hall County sent a full response using 22 firefighters. The vacant home was a total loss.


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