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Arson suspected in Lakehills blaze

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Charges are pending against a suspect in an alleged case of arson that occurred last week in Lakehills.

A fire broke out at approximately 5 pm, Monday, Jan. 9, in a doublewide mobile home parked on the grounds of the Lakehills United Methodist Church. According to Bandera County Fire Marshal John Stith, church administrators had recently sold the trailer to a third party, but the structure had not yet been moved from church property at 150 Avenue J.

The Medina Lake and Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Departments responded to the blaze with Ben Hicks, chief of the Medina Lake VFD, serving as incident commander.

"By the time the flames were extinguished, fire had consumed approximately 40 percent of the structure," Stith said. "However, it was later determined that the mobile home was considered 100 percent destroyed due to heat and smoke damage."

Not long after beginning an investigation, Stith said he suspected the fire had been deliberately set.

On Wednesday, Jan. 11, a canine investigator with the state fire marshal in Austin became involved in the process. While touring the burned trailer, a trained dog indicated that possibly an accelerant had been used.
However, as Stith explained, "When plastics burn, the hydrocarbons released emit an odor very similar to commonly used accelerants."

During an interview later that day, Stith indicated that a person of interest had already been picked up and brought in for
questioning. "Charges are pending," he said.

Other agencies that assisted with the investigation included the Office of the Bexar County Fire Marshal and an investigator with the Texas Office of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) investigator, in addition to investigators with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division, Stith said.

Earlier in the week, he reported that a fire - also attributed to arson - had occurred at the Bandera Beverage Barn, a drive-in facility on Highway 16 North. A different suspect is under investigation for that incident.

To put residents' minds at ease, Stith reiterated, "I would like to advise citizens that the fire in Bandera is not tied to the one in Lakehills."

More information will be released when the investigations are completed.