BUCKHANNON – A Buckhannon man was arrested for arson after a home caught fire on the Old Elkins Road early Friday morning.
Hunter Ray Shreve, 23, was arrested for first-degree arson, a felony, after he allegedly told police he used a lighter to set his house on fire.
No one was injured, according to Buckhannon Fire Chief J.B. Kimble.
According to the criminal complaint in the Upshur County Magistrate Clerk’s Office filed by investigating officer Deputy Jospeh D. Barcus with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, on Friday at 5:11 a.m., the city fire department asked Barcus to respond to the scene of an active structure fire at 4346 Old Elkins Road to assist with traffic control.
Upon arrival, Barcus was speaking with Kimble when he noticed a male exit a woodshed beside the burning house.
According to the complaint, Barcus approached the man and began to talk to him, and the man – later identified as Shreve – allegedly stated, “It has been going on for weeks and driving me insane.”
When Barcus asked Shreve if he knew how the fire had started, Shreve allegedly responded, “Yeah, I lit it with the [expletive] lighter … it drove me [expletive] insane,” the officer wrote in the complaint. Barcus arrested Shreve for arson.
Barcus then spoke with Shreve’s parents, Marie Comely and Ronnie Comely, both of whom said their son “was acting unusual” when he arrived home earlier that night.
“They went on to explain that [Shreve] told them that he was going to set the house on fire … and that they didn’t believe him,” Barcus wrote in the criminal complaint.
Later, while they were sleeping, Shreve came into their bedroom and informed them the house was on fire, according to the report.
Kimble told Barcus he would notify the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office, and Barcus and Patrolman Sam Kraemer with the Buckhannon Police Department transported Shreve to the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department.
At that point, the two law enforcement officers searched a backpack in Shreve’s possession and allegedly found a West Virginia driver’s license and a Social Security card “with a corner [burned] off of each,” according to Barcus’s report. The documents were subsequently collected as evidence.
On Friday afternoon, Kimble told My Buckhannon the fire began at 5:07 a.m.
“The initial crew arrived on scene, an engine crew of three, and then I arrived on scene and we were told possibly someone was still in the house,” Kimble said. “The crew from the training we had over a month ago initiated the thermal imaging camera, which enhanced searching and hose deployment. They were able to deploy their hoses quickly and got them through the house.”
This summer, the fire department conducted extensive training in buildings on the campus of West Virginia Wesleyan College before they were demolished, including the old Camden Apartments.
“We did a quick search of the first floor and determined no one was on the first floor, and we had to fight our way to the second floor,” Kimble continued. “The whole second floor was fully engulfed, and we did a full search there. We actually found the person we were looking for outside.”
Kimble said firefighters rescued a cat from the burning structure. Two older adults had exited themselves.
“We got the cat out, the two adults got out and we found the younger person outside,” the fire chief said.
In addition to 11 firefighters with the Buckhannon Fire Department, the Ellamore Volunteer Fire Department, Washington District Volunteer Fire Company and Junior Volunteer Fire Department out of Barbour County responded to the scene, while the Adrian Volunteer Fire Department covered the Buckhannon fire station.
Magistrate Mike Coffman indicated he planned to set bail at $125,000, but Shreve was unable to be arraigned by the time of writing due to him appearing to be under the influence of a controlled substance, according to the report.
If convicted, Shreve faces confinement in the state penitentiary for not less than two nor more than 20 years. According to state code, an individual convicted of first-degree arson is not eligible for parole for a period of two years.