Gwinnett County fire officials said two firefighters were taken to a hospital on Saturday night to be treated for burns they sustained in a house fire that investigators have ruled arson.
Capt. Brian Gaeth said a woman called 9-1-1 at about 9:12 p.m., and told a dispatcher that her husband was locked in a bedroom and had set something on fire at the home, which is located on the 450 block of Highgate Drive in Lawrenceville. Firefighters arrived and, after a walk around, discovered light smoke was coming from the upstairs of the home.
The firefighters made their way upstairs because that was where the man was reported to be and encountered dark smoke but no visible flames.
“Conditions quickly deteriorated and two firefighters called a ‘mayday,’ signaling to those on scene that they were in trouble,” Gaeth said. “The firefighters were quickly found and were led out of the structure to awaiting medical crews for evaluation. The incident commander followed established mayday procedures and all crews reported in for accountability. Once everyone was accounted for, lines were put in place to bring the fire under control.”
The firefighters injuries are not life threatening and their families and department officials joined them at the hospital after the fire. As for the husband that crews had been searching for, Gaeth said it was discovered that he was outside the house when the firefighters arrived.
Gaeth said the man admitted to investigators that he had started the fire but “claimed it was by accident.” The man, who fire officials have not identified, was arrested by the investigators on felony arson and domestic violence charges.
“The fire was set in an upstairs closet while the man’s wife, children and mother-in-law were in the home,” Gaeth said. “The wife was alerted by the smoke alarms and was able to get the rest of the family outside to safety.”
Gaeth used the incident to illustrate why families should have working smoke alarms in their homes.
“In this instance, the smoke alarms helped to alert the occupants allowing them sufficient time to exit the home safely,” he said.