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Lawrenceville fire may be arson

LAWRENCEVILLE - A brick frame, singed doors and melted blinds drooping in the windows was all that was left of the Massalene's Lawrenceville home Thursday afternoon.

Cassandra and Robert Massalene's house was destroyed by a fire that burned quickly Wednesday night and into Thursday morning.

Massalene said she was the only one home on Chapel Station Drive when she heard a thump outside and discovered something burning.

"I had gotten on the computer upstairs and I heard a loud thump and when I went outside I saw something burning in the yard next to the house. It looked like a plastic milk container," Cassandra Massalene said.

Massalene said she tried to put the fire out herself but the flames began spreading too quickly.

According to Massalene, neighbors told her they saw a man in her yard during the time the fire started.

Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Lt. Thomas Rutledge said he could not confirm what Massalene described but said authorities are investigating the fire as an arson.

"Based on the information we've gotten from the occupant and neighbors we are investigating this as an active arson," Rutledge said.

Rutledge said anyone with information can call the Gwinnett Fire Arson and Explosives section at 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 800-282-5804. Georgia Arson Control offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for arson, Rutledge said.

The fire damaged other homes in the Chapel Station subdivision. Samuel Egyir-Yaw and Angela Kamkam said siding on part of their house closest to the Massalene's melted off, but they were not displaced.

"I was sleeping when somebody knocked on the door and told me to get out of my house, my daughter and I," said Kamkam said.

Massalene said she did not know who could be responsible for setting her family's home on fire but said she has been concerned about prior incidents in the neighborhood. She said she, her husband and 16-year-old daughter had been contemplating moving.

"There's been a lot of problems in the neighborhood, and we have a lot of renters," Massalene said. "There's been suspected drug activity. My house was egged about two years ago ... I thought I was in a nice environment, but there has been loud music and people in my yard. I thought I had moved to a nice neighborhood."

Massalene said her family stayed with local family members Thursday.

"Someone tried to kill me or whoever they thought was in the home. Unbelievable."