Hall County Fire Services has still been unable to reach someone on its initial interview list in a Sept. 7 fire that destroyed a 15,000-square-foot home in North Hall — the owner.
“We’ve been interviewing folks, and part of that list is, of course, the owner of the house, which is the bank,” Hall County Fire Marshal Scott Cagle said. “We have (the bank) as HSBC. We’ve contacted them probably around five times. Hung up on twice and no returned calls on the other ones. We’ve yet to talk to them.”
The fire occurred in the 6200 block of Grant Ford Road at about 3 a.m. The home had previous signs of vandalism.
“Evidently this house has been used for a couple years for various illegal activity, you could say, for teenagers. In addition to that, there’s wire being stripped, a lot of vandalism, a lot of people being in there that weren’t supposed to be in there to begin with,” Cagle said.
Without help from the bank, Cagle said, the investigation as to the fire’s cause is stifled.
“With any other fire, especially a large dollar loss, what we would do is work with the owner, and their insurance company ... who has the money to investigate a large fire like this. They would pay for electrical engineers and heavy equipment to move all the debris out of the way so we could look at the floor and everything else,” Cagle said.
“Of course, the county can’t do that on every single fire we go to, because we go to hundreds a year.”
Cagle said the fire department has never run up against this level of difficulty. The only instance that came to mind was a still-unresolved disagreement between two banks as to a home ownership, and thus again, cleanup responsibility.
“We had an arson on Clarks Bridge Road two years ago, on Sept. 11, and we arrested a guy. I think it was Bank of America and JPMorgan. That house is still sitting there. It’s a dangerous structure ... we’re having trouble with them trying to clean the place up, as far as assisting an investigation,” he said.
Beyond the physical investigation for a cause, Cagle said, the department is looking for answers to basic questions.
“We just want to know what their take is on the property,” Cagle said. “It was foreclosed on. ... We would like to know if they had any buyers, and who the buyers were.”
Cagle said evidently the house is “landlocked” and difficult to sell.
“There are several lots around it that have been sold off as lake lots that were not deeded out, not a formal lot, so it became landlocked, and it was, for lack of (a) better term, dead in the water. So it sat there for years, and then, of course now it’s caught on fire and (burned) down to the ground,” he said.
Anyone with information can contact the Hall County Fire Marshal’s Office at 770-531-6838 or the Arson Tip Hotline at 800-282-5804.
Information leading to an arrest could mean a reward as high as $10,000, from the Georgia Arson Control Board.