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Arson identified in Medina blaze

By Judith Pannebaker

Since John Stith was appointed the new Bandera County Fire Marshal, he’s become one of the hardest working local officials.

On Thursday, Jan. 21, an emergency call to dispatch at approximately 4:30 pm reported a structure fire in Medina. Firefighters with Bandera and Medina Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the blaze at 179 Stringtown Road. In fact, the fire broke out approximately 400 feet from the Medina VFD. Medina Fire Chief Shane Keese served as incident commander. Firefighters managed to quell the blaze before the rental house was completely destroyed - so far, so good.

However, after a preliminary inspection, it was quickly concluded that the fire had not been an accident. Stith said that the state fire marshal’s preliminary report indicated that the house fire had been set deliberately.

In an interview, Chief Deputy Richard Smith specified that the fire had been set to cover up an attempted burglary. “The suspect forced entry into the house and set fire to the curtains,” he said.

Stith, in conjunction with investigators with the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office and the state fire marshal, opened an arson investigation. The investigation supported the initial suspicions.
“We’re investigating this as a burglary and arson,” Smith said, adding that leads are being pursued, but no suspect has been identified as yet.

There were no occupants in the house at the time of the blaze, other than the scofflaw who started it.

During the telephone interview for this article on Tuesday, Jan. 26, Stith was hard at work at yet another fire in Lakehills. He said the ongoing blaze had been contained in a recreational vehicle on Park Road 37 near 29th Street. No details were available by press time.