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Witness may be key to downtown fire investigation - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Witness may be key to downtown fire investigation

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Sketch of witness Sketch of witness
54 Vanderhorst Street 54 Vanderhorst Street
What's left of fire in recycling bin What's left of fire in recycling bin

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Police and Fire Officials are still looking to talk to a witness to a fire that happened over the weekend on Vanderhorst Street downtown. The only problem is they don't know who their witness is.

"We'd like to talk to him about where he was coming from, what he saw or if he saw anything suspicious," says City of Charleston Fire Department spokesman Mark Ruppel.

Without a word from a key witness to the fire that ignited in a recycling bin on the bottom floor of an apartment building, the task force worked with SLED and a resident that spoke to the witness to create a sketch.

The fire's first witness is described as a white man around 22 years old. He stands about five feet ten inches tall with a medium build. He has blonde hair and blue eyes and was wearing a gray sweater and white tennis shoes at the time of the fire.

Ruppel says if he wasn't at the scene when he was the outcome may have been much different.

"This person did a great job alerting the residents because it could have grown into a larger fire and trapped the occupant in the house," says Ruppel. "We applaud this person in assisting the occupant put the fire out but we would like to talk to him."

Ruppel says a first hand account minutes after the fire started is crucial to find out whether the fire can be dismissed or linked to other suspicious fire across the peninsula.

"If he saw the fire and was able to alert the resident when the fire was fresh... in our minds it was set pretty close to when he witnessed it," says Ruppel.

The incident report of the fire claims the witness woke up residents living on the first floor of the building right next to where the fire started in a recycling bin.

The witness asked to come inside the house to help put out the flames but was denied and after putting out the flames with the assistance of the residents inside the home the witness left the scene without calling the authorities.

"We need information," says Ruppel. "We need the public to help us. We need the public stay vigilant. We need the public to assist us in calling with any suspicious activity. Nothing is too little."

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