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Fire was arson, officials say
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A High Street home was torched during the pre-dawn hours Monday morning. The property owner has what appears to be a perfect alibi, that being he was in jail when the fire began.
The house, belonging to James Copley, was gutted and suffered heavy fire and smoke damage, although firefighters saved the structure itself. McMinnville firefighters were called to the home, located just blocks from downtown, around 3 a.m. Monday. They found heavy smoke pouring from the mid-size house located behind Ben Lomand Telephone but were able to subdue the flames within a few minutes, although they stayed on the scene most of Monday morning following their discovery. They also returned Monday during the daylight hours to put out embers which rekindled themselves.
According to McMinnville Fire Chief Kevin Lawrence, the fire was a case of arson, prompting an investigation by local law enforcement and the Tennessee Bomb and Arson Unit into who set the fire. Sources say an accelerant, perhaps kerosene, had been poured throughout the unoccupied residence and then ignited. The method used leads investigators to believe, given the heavy dose of accelerant and the time of night the fire was set, that whoever set the fire intended the home to burn to the ground.
Copley, the homeowner, is in jail after being hit with drug charges during the most recent local drug roundup. He is serving a 60-day sentence.
Investigators with the Bomb and Arson Unit have not revealed where in the house the fire was started nor what, if any, motive they suspect for the arson.