03/06/08 — Goldsboro fire investigators looking into suspicious fire

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Goldsboro fire investigators looking into suspicious fire

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on March 6, 2008 1:45 PM

Goldsboro police are looking for five or six black men who apparently set fire to a public housing unit on Olivia Lane on Wednesday morning, a detective said.

Investigator Dave Cloutier said there is evidence that a fire was set at a Lincoln Holmes apartment that belongs to Jerry Wooten around 10:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Wooten has back problems and limited mobility, officials said, but was able to escape without injury.

No one was injured in the fire because residences in the brick-and-shingle Lincoln Homes complex were evacuated.

Smoke poured out through the roof of the involved apartments, near Slaughter and Poplar streets, after 10:30 a.m.

"Witnesses have stated that there are five to six people that set the fire. The fire was set -- this wasn't an accident," Cloutier said. "The fire was actually set on the exterior of the apartment, but of course it burned a good portion of the interior.

If police locate suspects involved in setting the fire, the anticipated charge is first-degree arson, the investigator said.

"We're still following up on several leads, but as far as knowing why someone would do it, we don't know," Cloutier said. "We do know it was intentionally set."

Just after 11 a.m., Goldsboro police and firefighters told the many Lincoln Homes residents gathered along Olivia Lane to move to the other side of the street.

"We've got a gas problem," an investigator shouted as people walked through thick smoke to move away from a potential explosion.

Cloutier praised North Carolina Natural Gas Corp. for its assistance in making sure the gas lines would not become involved in the fire.

"There were some issues with the natural gas lines, but N.C. Natural Gas came out and made sure that wasn't going to be a problem," Cloutier said.