Arson suspected in fire that severely damages home on N. Haskett
Authorities are investigating what they believe to be an arson fire at a split-level home on North Haskett Street Saturday.
The home, owned by John and Yovetti Taitingfong, who live in Guam, has been unoccupied for several years and there is no power to the house, located at 1440 N. Haskett.
"We know kids have been breaking in and using it as a party house," said Fire Chief Phil Gridley, who added that a number of fingerprints have been recovered at the scene.
Arson investigators believe the fire was started in a downstairs bedroom where a pile of paper had been ignited. The fire caused a flashover in the bedroom, then worked its way up the stairwell into the living room area.
The fire itself caused extensive damage, and combined with smoke and water damage resulted in an estimated loss of about $40,000 to the home.
Fire crews were called out at 2:14 p.m. Saturday when dispatchers began receiving several calls of a house on fire with smoke pouring out of the roof.
The first fireman on the scene spotted a man laying on the ground, suffering from smoke inhalation. That individual, who is not a suspect in the fire, apparently had spotted the smoke and tried to enter the house to see if anyone was inside, but was driven out by the smoke.
Although police obtained a statement from the individual, he was not identified. He refused medical treatment and disappeared shortly thereafter.
Gridley said he hopes to be able to find the man "because he may have seen something" that would help authorities identify the arsonists.
A second witness to the blaze, the first man's companion, said the man had left without giving his name because he had a warrant out for him in another state.
Gridley said as soon as he arrived on the scene, "because I knew the history of the house (that it had been unoccupied) I told the guys to treat it as a suspicious fire."
Anyone with any information about the fire is urged to contact Det. Jeff Rhodes at the Mountain Home Police Department, 587-2101.