A Gainesville man is accused of setting a series of fires on Feb. 26.
Law enforcement authorities charged Zachary Dan Grissom, 21, with three counts of arson in the first, second and third degree, all felonies.
The arson investigation began when Gainesville police and fire officials, in conjunction with Hall County fire officials, responded to a car fire in the parking lot of Wal-Mart on Shallowford Road, a blaze at an abandoned house blocks away from the Wal-Mart and a dumpster fire at the Chick-fil-A restaurant also on Shallowford.
“The first-degree charge stemmed from the actual house fire,” said police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook. “Primarily, when dealing with arson cases from the first, second and third degree, the first-degree charge typically stems from the actual human endangerment and property value damage.
“In the case of the house fire, one, there was a higher degree of property damage, and second, there was the case of human endangerment due to the fact that it was a house — a dwelling.”
The car and vacant house were total losses.
According to arrest reports from the Hall County Jail, Grissom was also charged by Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies the same day with felony theft by taking, criminal trespassing, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving with a suspended license, unregistered vehicle and no proof of insurance.
Holbrook said he did not know if the arrests were connected, and an incident report was not available from the sheriff’s office.
“At this time, it appears that the motive is unknown,” Holbrook said.
The fires were seemingly — for lack of a better term — “random,” Holbrook said, “just the mere fact they ranged from a vehicle, from a house, to a dumpster, as if there were no rhyme or reason behind them.”
The case is still open, and the investigation ongoing, Holbrook said.
Grissom was booked into the Hall County Jail and has since bonded out, records show.