Official: Fatal fire appears 'suspicious' as accelerant may have been used

Official: Fatal fire appears 'suspicious' as accelerant may have been used

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia Fire Department investigators say the fire that gutted an apartment building and killed an elderly woman late Sunday night was "suspicious in nature," but the department stopped short Tuesday of labeling the blaze as a case of arson.

The fire started in a rear stairwell area of one of the brick buildings in the Plantation Court Apartments on South Saluda Avenue.

Firefighters found the body of True Dent Henderson, 80, inside the building. The Richland County Coroner's office says Henderson died of smoke inhalation.

Sunday's fire is the second at Plantation Court in recent weeks.

On Dec. 16, firefighters responded to what was determined to have been an arson fire on the second floor of an adjacent apartment building. Investigators say someone had used a petroleum-based liquid to set clothing on fire.

Chief Aubrey Jenkins said between Nov. 25 and Dec.16, his department dealt with four fires located within less than a mile of each other. All of the fires were considered to have been intentionally set by the same person.

RELATED: See photos of where each of these fires under investigation took place.

  • 11/25/16 at 412 S. Saluda Ave.
  • 11/29/16 at 1402 and 1404 Dreher St.
  • 12/16/16 at 215 S. Saluda Ave.
  • 1/29/17 at 209 S. Saluda Ave.

No suspect has been identified in those cases. Investigators say they do not have evidence yet to connect all the fires.

"We're kind of putting the pieces together," said Columbia Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins. "It's just if we can catch this person or persons."

Columbia Fire Marshal George Adams says the department is waiting on results of SLED lab tests before adding Sunday's fatal fire to the list of unsolved arsons.

Adams says there are indications the apartment fire also involved the use of some sort of accelerant.

If you have any information about any of these fires, call Crimestoppers at 1-888-Crime-SC.

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