Editor’s Note: A report from the Abilene Fire Department shows the first house on the 1600 block of Chestnut Street burned down on April 22, 2020 in a two-alarm fire that was ruled undetermined. One resident was able to escape without injury.
ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – 33-year-old Jay Hunter Pace is now in police custody, following a two-alarm fire that completely destroyed the home he was renting. It also caused severe damage to the house next door.
Crews with the Abilene Fire Department got to the two fires in the 1600 block of Chestnut Street just after 2:15 a.m. Tuesday.
“When the first piece of equipment arrived on scene, we had one structure that was completely involved and it was auto exposing or trying to catch the house next door on fire also,” said Battalion Chief Joey Kincaid.
Chestnut Street resident Scott Burleson told KTAB/KRBC he and his wife awoke to the flames, and thought quickly to make sure their neighbors were not in danger.
“She called 9-1-1 and then we went over across the street to make sure they were okay,” Burleson recounted. “By the time I got across the street and went in and come out, that whole thing was engulfed.”
Arson Investigator Jeff Waggoner said much of the evidence was lost in the blaze. He was able to come to his conclusion based on what was left behind, as well as a hefty amount of eyewitness testimony.
“He [Pace] is definitely a suspect, he is definitely a person of interest, but he is definitely charged,” Waggoner said. “The neighbors were definitely upset and they let me know.”
According to a press release from Abilene police, Pace admitted to starting the fire intentionally, when he was arrested shortly after the fire. Residents like Burleson said this was not the first time they’ve faced a neighborhood fire like this one.
“There’s a history here. He’s done this…The house that used to be on this property, 1601 chestnut,” Burleson said. “I don’t know what they ruled… But that house burned to the ground.”
Waggoner investigated that fire, too. He told KTAB/KRBC it was ultimately ruled ‘undetermined’ due to lack of evidence.
“There was no reason for that to burn, we absolutely knew it was set,” Waggoner said.
Even though Pace was arrested, many Chestnut residents said they’re still fearful of what the future may hold.
“Just saying this on the news, this could probably get my house burnt down,” Burleson added.