By Joe Johnson
A homeless camp apparently was connected to two recent fires at an Athens lumber yard, according to an Athens-Clarke County fire official.
Most recently, firefighters spent all of Sunday night and into Monday morning extinguishing a huge blaze at Hogan Lumber Company on Tallassee Road.
Athens-Clarke County Fire and Emergency Services responded to the same location to put out a fire on Dec. 10.
ACCFES Battalion Chief Nate Moss on Tuesday said the cause and origin of both fires had yet to be definitively determined.
State fire officials will be joining their local counterparts on Thursday to take a more comprehensive look at the lumber yard, according to Moss.
“That said, after walking around the premises, investigators did see evidence of several small campfires and trash fires that had been set all over the property,” he said. “This evidence, along with trash and debris, as well as information received from the business owner point to homeless people setting up camp over a significant period of time.
“We don’t yet have evidence to prove or disprove whether these last two structure fires have been set intentionally or if it was the result of accidents," Moss said.
Last weekend’s fire was the more intense of the two. Flames from the lumber yard could be seen from miles away, and firefighters spent some 18 hours at the scene.
“There are still some small smoldering fires confined to the property that pose no danger of spreading to the surrounding area that are being left to burn themselves out,” Moss said Tuesday.
As a result of both fires, two buildings were complete losses, along with lumber and other property stored inside, as were items around the buildings, according to Moss.