Fire and po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors look­ing into "sus­pi­cious" cause of fire at DIGS home

The Standard Journal - - POLICE/FIRE - From Staff Reports

While step­ping over damp­ened in­su­la­tion and scorched dry­wall, Laura Casey sur­veyed what was left of the care­givers’ liv­ing quar­ters at the DIGS home after a fire tore through it early Satur­day.

Casey looks after the four res­i­dents of the 30 Brook­val­ley Court home for adults with de­vel­op­men­tal chal­lenges ev­ery other week­end. She de­scribed the scene of what of­fi­cials are call­ing a “sus­pi­cious fire” with a sad tone.

“This is just about to make me phys­i­cally sick,” she said. “It’s just hard to put into words that some­one would just be so evil.”

Ac­cord­ing to Rome-Floyd County Fire Depart­ment Bat­tal­ion Chief Gene Proc­tor, fire­fight­ers re­sponded to the home around 3:30 a.m. Satur­day and came across an ac­tive struc­ture fire.

Charles Schroeder, pres­i­dent of the DIGS Inc. board, said the res­i­dents and care­givers were not in the house but were with their fam­i­lies for the week­end.

The fire was started in two sep­a­rate ar­eas of the house, ac­cord­ing to Proc­tor — one in a bed­room and the other in the care­givers’ quar­ters on the op­po­site side of the home.

“That doesn’t hap­pen un­less it’s a sus­pi­cious fire,” he added.

The fire mar­shal and Rome po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors are look­ing into what caused the fire, which Proc­tor said was the sec­ond in the last three weeks at the home to start in the early morn­ing hours. The first in­ci­dent oc­curred on Oct. 3 when pine straw land­scap­ing around the house was lit on fire, dam­ag­ing a por­tion of the ex­te­rior, he con­tin­ued.

Proc­tor said an ini­tial in­ves­tiga- tion ap­peared to re­veal that some­one made en­try through the rear of the house and started the fire. The inside of the home was mod­er­ately dam­aged, specif­i­cally in the rooms where the blaze be­gan, and Proc­tor es­ti­mated at least a three-month time slot for it to be liv­able again.

As the fire alarm con­tin­ued to ring Satur­day af­ter­noon, La­mar Paul, who do­nated the prop­erty for the DIGS home three years ago with his late wife, Bar­bara Paul, moved across the black­ened in­sides of his grand­son’s res­i­dence. Paul said he raised his grand­son, Michael Paul, since he was 7 months old and was try­ing to fig­ure out what was next. His grand­son has Prader-Willi syn­drome, a ge­netic dis­or­der.

Paul said Michael would be stay­ing with him at his ad­ja­cent res­i­dence un­til the house could be re­habbed, but it would be up to De­vel­op­men­tal Dis­abil­i­ties Min­istries of Ge­or­gia, who man­ages the home, to de­cide where other res­i­dents will stay.

Schroeder’s 33-year-old son, Corey Schroeder, also lives at the DIGS home, and his room was one of the points of ori­gin for the fire. His per­sonal items, from fam­ily pictures to clothes and his tele­vi­sion, were melted into hard­ened drips.

“It’s just so un­nerv­ing to me that some­one would go to this ex­treme,” Casey said while look­ing at what was left of Corey’s room. “It’s just got to be some sick minds.”

Most of Corey’s clothes were burned in the fire since he had only packed a week­end’s worth while he stayed with his par­ents.

His fa­ther said they would be go­ing shop­ping this week­end, try­ing to re­place Corey’s charred pos­ses­sions.

Spencer Lahr/RN-T

A torched mat­tress rests on the front yard of 30 Brook­val­ley Court after what Rome-Floyd County Fire Depart­ment Bat­tal­ion Chief Gene Proc­tor says is a "sus­pi­cious" fire that broke out around 3:30 a.m. Satur­day, Oct. 15, 2016.

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