Local and federal authorities are investigating a suspicious fire that heavily damaged a vacant home. Sunday afternoon, the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office received a call reporting a person trespassing inside a vacant rental home at 4037 US Highway 70 East of Smithfield. Before deputies arrived they received a second call reporting the house was on fire.
Witnesses reported that a person who had been trespassing in the rental home ran out the back door into a wooded area. A concerned citizen briefly gave chase but lost sight of the individual when they entered the woods. Moments later the citizen saw the house was on fire and called 911.
The Pine Level, Brogden and Selma Fire Departments were dispatched at 5:29pm. The Princeton Fire Department was dispatched at 5:35pm. Crews had the fire under control at 5:56pm
No injuries were reported. The rental home was owned by George Clifton Moore of Smithfield.
The Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, Johnston County Fire Marshal’s Office, Union County Fire Marshal’s Office, and federal ATF investigators are assisting. The Union County Fire Marshal’s Office provided an accelerant detection canine to assist with the investigation.
County Fire Marshal Adam Stanley confirmed Monday afternoon the fire has been ruled as arson.