Thursday, October 25, 2012
A Salina main is in jail, accused of aggravated arson in connection with an apartment fire.
Even investigators acknowledge there are strange circumstances associated with the fire. The overall damage estimate to the apartment is not very high. Damage is estimated at just $3,500.
However, it could have been much worse had firefighters not been alerted as quickly as they were.
Residents of the affected apartment complex say they are fortunate to have a place to stay and that it's also fortunate that no one was injured in what Salina fire investigators say was a deliberately set fire.
Fire investigator Troy Long says first responders quickly found the source of the blaze coming from Apartment 17 in the basement level of the 20-unit complex about 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"Once they evacuated the building, the crews made entry," Long said.
They found the fire's source coming from the bedroom of the apartment.
Long says the fire was arson. He found a propane lighter, which he believes was sued to set a bed and trash can on fire. He said the apartment's occupant, 36-year-old Paul Smith told investigators he had invited a man he recently met over for dinner earlier.
"They had a meal. The occupant fell asleep," Long said. "The next thing he remembers is the person he'd invited over waking him to tell him the house was on fire."
Smith tried to extinguish the fire, Long said, but could not and escaped while firefighters were called. Smith gave police a description of 38-year-old Robert Walker, saying walker was last seen riding a bicycle away from the scene. Police found Walker about 12 blocks away from the apartment complex.
Walker admitted being at the apartment.
"Robert walker is our suspect," Long said. "He's been arrested. He'll be charged with aggravated arson."
Now investigators wonder if Walker is connected with other fires.
"Because of this fire and the situation in how it occurred, we are looking at him as a possible suspect in two fires we had last week," Long said.