Arson Suspected in Fires Near Home South of Killeen

A barn and car on the same property burned up early Monday morning south of Killeen. Luckily, no one's hurt, thanks to an alert neighbor.

But now the Bell County fire marshal has a bit of mystery on his hands.

He says someone wanted the building and car to burn; now he just has to figure out who.

"I heard a loud sound, like a bomb going off," said Russell Woolsey, who lives next door to where the fire started on Hi Ridge Drive.

At first he thought someone was trying to break into his home. Then he looked out the window toward his neighbor's house, 200 yards away.

"I said, 'Oh my God, his house is on fire.'" Then Woolsey "went to the front door, ring the doorbell about ten times, and I said, must not be anybody home."

It turned out three people were home. The sheriff's department got them out safe.

The house wasn't actually on fire, but an SUV next to the garage was.

"Luckily whoever called it in did, or that car could have gotten that garage on fire, and it could've just taken off from there," said Joshua Menix, senior firefighter with Southwest Bell County Volunteer Fire Department, the first to respond.

Fifty yards away, a barn was also completely engulfed.

That distance between the two fires, among other things, has the fire marshal suspecting arson.

He declined to speak on camera, but by around 7 Monday morning, he already had a person of interest in mind.

Around 9 a.m., a man pulled up in an SUV, and the marshal took down his info, looked through his car and even smelled his shoes. But he wouldn't say how that was related, only that he was "interested."

Firefighters focused the rest of their day on monitoring the 290 smoldering bales of hay.

"As long as we get the house and the people are safe," Menix said, "that's all that matters."

The barn looks okay on the outside, but once you get inside, you can see that all of the metal supports actually warped from the heat.

In all they're looking at up to $150,000 in damage; that includes a horse trailer, a riding mower, and some other stuff in the barn.

"They're just super nice people ... for something like that to happen to," Woolsey said.

And with no other similar cases to link it to, it remains a mystery for now.

Four horses on the property also escaped without injury.

The state fire marshal is now helping with the investigation.


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