Police say Harlan County fire may be arson

By Marcus Conroy | 

A Harlan County woman is homeless, and police say the fire that started next door may have been set on purpose.

Police say the fire started at an abandoned building, and got so big that it spread to Violet Lewis's home next door. She was able to escape, but she lost almost everything she owned.

"The back of her house caught fire, and then spread to the front," said Loyall Fire Chief Vern Guffy.

The flames have died, but smoke still smolders at this old TV repair shop long abandoned. Right next door, separated by only a driveway, the home of Violet Lewis is reduced to mostly ash.

She was able to escape, but years of memories, and a garden neighbors say she spent months working on are gone.

"These houses were so close together. You get one going then the next one, then just move on from there," said Guffy.

Guffy says it took hours to put out the flames, and police suspect someone started the fire on purpose.

"There was no electricity. No storms going on so we can eliminate lighting, and we don't think it was spontaneous combustion," said Loyall Police Chief Erik Saylor.

Police do not have any suspect or suspects, but the offenders would face several felony charges, including arson and wanton endangerment.

Several hours of fighting the fire and inhaling the smoke sent several firefighters to the hospital, including Guffy. Guffy says he and the other firemen are doing fine, and it was just a precaution.

He says he is just thankful everyone got out alive.

Violet Lewis was checked into the hospital for smoke inhalation, but was discharged hours later. Neighbors say she is in Corbin now with her daughter.

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