SAINT GEORGE, South Carolina -- (WorthyNews) An early morning fire in Saint George appears to be the works of an arsonist.
A five bed, five bath, 5,300 square foot(ft) house at 305 Bryant Street burned to the ground early in the morning on February 18, 2015. The owner, Brian Fehr, CEO of Comact, recently moved to the Saint George area to head up the business. He stated that he is ""fully committed" to Saint George, and intended to "spend a lot of time living, playing and working" here."(1)
The house, valued at $285,000,(2) was not the only thing that was lost in the fire. Among them was a "beautiful old square grand piano" which, depending upon the year and the condition, could be worth as much as $25,000 or more, with some being worth as much as $50,000.(3)
"That stuff is really neat," said Fehr, "but it's also not replaceable."(1)
Details of the official account do not add up. According to the official story, the Dorchester County Fire Department system sounded the fire alarm at 3:58 AM. Fire trucks from four departments (Saint George, Reevesville, Indian Field, and Harleyville) responded "with the Saint George men, responding in seven minutes."(1) This means that the Saint George Fire Department would have arrived on the scene at 4:05 AM.
According to Google Maps, the distance from the Saint George Fire Department(SGFD) (109 Dutch Krakeel Rd.) to 305 Bryant Street is 2.4 miles without traffic.(4) The driving time under normal circumstances using the above locations is about six minutes. Given approximately one minute to get into full fire fighting gear, this ups the arrival time at seven minutes.
What took them so long? It appears that they were not in too big a hurry to put out the fire. This would suggest they knew about the fire even before the call came in. If this is the case, it not only raises the possibility that Mr. Fehr committed arson or paid someone to do it for him, it also suggests that he paid certain members of the St. George fire department not to rush to the fire when/if the call came in.
Another problem lies in the number of fire departments responding to the blaze. In 2003, a fire destroyed the fellowship hall of Indian Field United Methodist Church in which all fire departments in Dorchester County and some in neighboring Orangeburg County arrived to put it out. If so many stations responded to this fire, why did only four respond to the fire at 305 Bryant St.?
Another problem lies with the official start time of the fire. According to the account given in the Eagle-Record, the fire started just before 4 AM. According to a newspaper delivery person who passed by 305 Bryant St. about 3 AM, there appeared to be smoke already present, although he did not believe it to be smoke at the time but rather steam rising from the house due to the cold temperatures that night.(6) Upon completing his route and heading home, he reported that he could see flames shooting above the tree tops while still being some distance off. Upon seeing the flames and verifying the address, the delivery driver called in the fire, which would be about the same time as The Eagle-Record reported the call was received.
The newspaper courier also stated that he saw another individual talking on a cell phone standing by the road at the location of the fire. He presumed the individual also was placing a call to 911 but was unable to verify the nature of the call. It is unknown at this time whether the courier recognized the man he saw standing by the road.
Another problem is the excessive use of detail in the story. According to www.businessinsider.com, too much information is a sign that a person is lying.(7) This was certainly displayed in Mr. Fehr's interview with The Eagle-Record.(1)
The greatest example of this was the mention of the piano. If Mr. Fehr had simply mentioned that there was a piano in the home and that he acquired it from a certain person (in this case, Yvonne Berry, wife of Tom Berry, a local attorney, who received it from a fellow attorney Gedney Howe of Charleston), then no suspicion would be raised. Instead, not only does Mr. Fehr go to great lengths to describe the piano, but also who he acquired it from and who that person acquired it from. This suggests that Mr. Fehr knew about the fire before it happened.
Another example that this is an example of arson, and cover-up of arson, is the description of events after firefighters arrived on the scene. The following is recorded exactly as it appears in The Eagle-Record:
"One by one the firemen unfurled their hoses, drawing water from hydrants on Bryant Street at the intersections of Berry and Raysor streets. No one was in the home at the time of the fire and there were no injuries reported afterwards. The smoldering site, given the size of the home and the intensity of the blaze, was not officially cleared by the Fire Department util almost three in the afternoon, at which time investigators were called in to determine the specific cause of the blaze."
What need did The Eagle-Record have in stating the firemen unfurled their hoses "one by one?" The answer: There is none. Clearly this is a planted statement designed to draw away the reader's attention from what happened with sensationalism. This sort of trick us commonly used with magicians and con artists, people with something to hide.
Another thing that suggests arson and arson cover-up is the fact that Mr. Fehr "recognized" the home he had purchased. Since Mr. Fehr is reported to be out of town at the time of the fire, it only stands to reason that he would have been contacted and told that his house had burned to the ground. The person/persons contacting him (likely Chief Atkinson with the SGFD) would have asked Mr. Fehr if he owned the home at 305 Bryant Street, to which Mr. Fehr would have replied he did. There stands then no reason for Mr. Fehr to have to 'recognize' his home. In doing so, Mr. Fehr openly attempted to cover up his involvement in the crime.
Brian Fehr, members of the St. George Fire Department, and possibly others appear to stand guilty of arson, conspiracy to commit arson, arson cover-up, and insurance fraud. If this goes to trial and the parties involved are convicted on all charges, they face up to 40 years in prison.
(1) The Eagle-Record, Number 09/Volume 116, February 26, 2015, Page 1
(6) unnamed source