The fire that destroyed Building 21 in Hillcrest Apartments Monday was arson, according to the Asheville Fire Department. Investigators are compiling a list of suspects at this time and continuing to pursue leads.
“We did find that the release of natural gas was intentional,” Asheville Fire Chief Scott Burnette told Xpress. “There was also a separate fire set elsewhere in the apartment.”
When the natural gas encountered the fire, it caused the explosion and blaze that ended up destroying the building. Burnette would not reveal how the natural gas was released. In addition to the Asheville-Buncombe Arson Task Force, the investigation involves agents from the N.C. State Bureau of Investigations, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Asheville Police Department.
No one was seriously injured in the fire, and the 16 residents of the building are currently in temporary housing.
Just after the blaze, Angel Matthews, who lived in the apartment where it first broke out, told Xpress that she suspected her former boyfriend Carl Vincent Jones, Sr. had set the fire. At the time of the blaze, Matthews was at the court house getting a temporary restraining order against Jones, who was subsequently arrested on charges of breaking into her apartment last Saturday. Matthews claims Jones threatened to kill her.
Anyone with information about the arson is invited to contact Crime Stoppers at 255-5050.
—David Forbes, staff writer