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Arson suspected in fire at vacant Quincy house

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ROBERT ALLEN

Times Reporter 

A fire reported at 2 p.m. on March 18 destroyed a South Key Street home in Quincy. Firefighters found the building abandoned and vacant, according to the Quincy Fire Department’s report. 

With the windows and doors boarded shut, the responders used an ax to gain entry, according to the report. Fire, by that time, had already spread throughout most of the building. 

Between the darkness and the smoke, QFD Capt. Steve O’Neal said he couldn’t find the doors he needed when trying to move from one room to another. So he made a new door. 

“I had to break a hole in the sheetrock to get to the fire,” he said. 

O’Neal said the house was no longer connected to any utilities such as gas or electric. Under these circumstances, he said a fire is highly unlikely without the introduction of some human factor. 

The Fire Marshal’s Office is calling it “suspicious,” said Scott Haire, chief of the Quincy Fire Department. 

Both Haire and O’Neal said sometimes homeless individuals seek refuge in abandoned houses and start fires, intentionally or accidentally. 

O’Neal said he discovered an open back door after the fire was extinguished. 

The property owner, Homer Garner, was on the scene. He confirmed the house was unoccupied. 

The report from the Quincy Fire Department shows the fire resulted in a complete loss of the structure’s value, estimated at $30,000, and the value of the structure’s contents, estimated at $1,000.

The cause remains under investigation. According to O’Neal, the Florida State Fire Marshall’s Office will test samples of ashes throughout the structure for clues, including the detection of flame accelerants. Haire confirmed the investigation will address various scenarios. 

The Fire Marshall’s Office is offering a $2,500 reward for information about the possible arson.