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Police suspect arson in fire that damaged five homes

Firefighters douse hot spots at 400 Soft Winds Village Drive in Rock Hill on Thursday after a fire destroyed the home and two adjacent ones.
Firefighters douse hot spots at 400 Soft Winds Village Drive in Rock Hill on Thursday after a fire destroyed the home and two adjacent ones.

The fire that destroyed three houses and damaged two others, causing $735,000 in damage, is being probed today as an arson, according to a report from the Rock Hill Police Department.

Thursday’s fire at five houses along Soft Winds Village Drive started “under suspicious circumstances,” the report notes.

Authorities on Thursday originally said they did not have anything to label the fire as suspicious.

Today’s announcement that the fire at the home of Eric and Mattie McCrorey is the work of an arsonist caught neighbor DeQuita White off-guard.

“It makes me angry,” White said. “To hear that somebody would do that to them is surprising to me. They’re good people. They go to work and come home. They have people who come over. They’re always the same people.”

During the early morning fire in Soft Winds Village that displaced six children and nine adults, police poked a much-charred Ford Expedition that sat in what used to be a carport at McCrorey’s house at 400 Soft Winds Village Drive.

No one was hurt in the fire that authorities have said started the McCrorey family home.

A police report shows that a resident whose house also was destroyed by the blaze told police that before the fire, he heard noises outside.

“I was looking at the news around 4:30 a.m.,” Ajanaku Murdock said hours after Thursday’s fire. “I heard a car moving down the street. (It) sounded like I heard a car down slam. After a few minutes, the car drove off. About five minutes later, I heard an explosion.”

Murdock then evacuated his stepchildren. Outside, he saw flames coming from his neighbor’s house, according to the report.

Around 5 a.m., the McCroreys said they heard an explosion that came from the carport, where their Ford Mustang and Expedition were parked, according to the report and Mattie McCrorey.

The report further notes that when Eric McCrorey went to investigate the source of the explosion, he observed flames coming from his 2000 Expedition.

That fire then spread to four neighboring houses, including one that was vacant. When the Rock Hill Fire Department arrived around 5:20 a.m., they found three houses heavily involved in the fire.

The fire was under control in about 40 minutes, but firefighters battled hot spots as late at 9 a.m., he said.

When the damaged was done, three charred shells of what used to be homes stood without roofs in some areas. Melted vinyl siding clung to the side of one house, while insulation showed on the side of another house.

Around 10 a.m., authorities probed Mattie McCrorey’s Expedition and the area around it. It was last driven around 6 p.m. Wednesday and had not given her any trouble, she said.

The State Law Enforcement Division responded with an arson dog. Investigators took samples from the fire scene for analysis, the report notes.

DeQuita White and her brother, Rodney, recalled the fire.

“I heard a boom and I heard yelling,” DeQuita White recalled. “I didn’t get up until I saw the orange flames.”

Rodney White added, “It was burning very intensely. It was extremely hot. It burned very quick.”

Hours after the fire, DeQuita White was stunned.

“It’s going to take me a while to get over this,” she said about the fire that damaged her friend’s house. “I never thought this would happen in my neighborhood.”

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