Judge sets bond for man accused of starting N. Charleston apartment fire

Updated: Jan. 1, 2020 at 1:12 PM EST
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - North Charleston fire officials say a man is charged with starting a New Year’s morning fire that left 16 people without a home.

Forrest West faces a charge of second-degree arson.

Witnesses on the scene told officers West set fire to the apartment while yelling that he was going to burn the building down and that the owner of the building “would be getting his insurance money,” an affidavit states.

“That smoke could have gotten in through those windows or deeper through the doors or stuff. As big as the cloud was, it could have killed somebody.” said Lathronia Johnson who witnessed the fire.

A 911 caller reported the fire at the Chicora Arms Apartments on Spruill Avenue at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday to a report of smoke and fire, according to North Charleston Deputy Fire Chief Stephanie Julazadeh. Firefighters arrived on scene and found heavy smoke and fire coming from a second floor apartment, she said. Firefighters made entry into the apartment and extinguished the fire and completed a search. Fire officials said all of the people who live in the building were able to safely get out of the building on their own.

West appeared before a bond court judge Wednesday morning.

“It was an accident, I dropped my lighter,” he told the judge.

Investigators say witnesses told them West initially set fire to a dresser outside and then continued to set fire to a pillow and throw it into the apartment, which then became fully engulfed with flames that spread to another apartment.

The affidavit states West lived in the apartment he is accused of setting on fire but was served an eviction notice Tuesday.

The judge set bond at $15,000.

A caller reported a fire at this North Charleston apartment building at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday...
A caller reported a fire at this North Charleston apartment building at 12:53 a.m. Wednesday morning.(North Charleston Fire Department)

A total of six apartments were damaged, displacing 13 adults and three children, Julazadeh said.

The Red Cross is assisting them.

The North Charleston Fire Department, Charleston Fire Department, St. Andrews Fire Department, Charleston County EMS, and North Charleston Police responded. No injuries were reported.

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