AUBURN -- A New Year's party turned into an arson investigation, when firefighters discovered several fires at an Auburn home.
The situation unfolded at about 4:19 a.m., when firefighters were dispatched to the 2000 block of Tulip Petal Road.
When the first fire truck arrived, officials found several people standing outside beside a smoldering mattress. Firefighters then learned of additional fires set inside the home, although occupants were able to extinguish each of them before the flames had a chance to spread.
Partygoers reportedly first discovered a smoldering fire in a folding chair in the garage. They thought the blaze was accidental until a smoke alarm alerted them to a second fire in a hallway closet on the home's second floor, Gwinnett Fire Capt. Thomas Rutledge said. Within minutes, two more fires were discovered burning inside the home -- one in a mattress in a first-floor bedroom and one in a plastic fruit bowl in the den. All were extinguished before the fire department arrived, Rutledge said.
Fire investigators were called to the scene, and they are in the process of interviewing the 18 to 20 people at the house when the fires occurred, after a New Year's Eve party began winding down, the report said.
The fires did not cause any damage to the home and were contained to the area of origin, the release said.
"These fires were intentionally set by an unknown person(s) inside the home," said Rutledge, spokesman for Gwinnett Fire and Emergency Services. "The very fact that the home was occupied at the time of these fires makes this a very bold act. People could have very easily been injured or killed."
Investigators are asking anyone with information about the incidents to call 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Control HOTLINE at 1-800-282-5804. Georgia Arson Control, Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for arson, a release said.
Duluth house fire
A second house fire Friday morning has also been ruled an act of arson.
Crews found the split-level wood frame house on the 3200 block of Bristol Lane in Duluth fully involved when they arrived about 6 a.m., a release said.
Firefighters battled the blaze in a defensive mode due to the intense conditions and partial collapse of the abandoned house.
"There was no power or gas utility supplying the house and no other reason for a fire to occur," he said. "Fire investigators believe that the fire was intentionally set."
Rutledge said it was the second time in a month firefighters were called to the road. A Nov. 28 fire destroyed the house next door, which was also vacant at the time. Rutledge said investigators are examining both fires to see if they are related.
While the November blaze's cause was listed as undetermined, Rutlegde said Friday's fire appears suspicious.
As in the Auburn arson case, investigators are asking for help from the public.