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Woman charged in Garrard County Food Pantry fire

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 12:38 PM EST
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LANCASTER, Ky. (WKYT) - Officials in Garrard County say a woman is in custody following a fire Sunday morning at the Garrard County Food Pantry.

Garrard County Emergency Management tells us the building appears to be a total loss.

Debra Smalling, 60, was arrested at her home Sunday night in Lancaster. Police Chief Rodney Kidd says she was identified through surveillance video obtained from the scene. Smalling is charged with second-degree arson and first-degree criminal mischief.

“Our Community is suffering, We lost a very important place that so many depend on. Please keep Gregory Scott Cash and Angie Cash and all those in our community that depend on the pantry,” Lancaster City Fire and Rescue said in a Facebook post.

Gregory Cash has been providing food to the Garrard County community for the past 14 years. It took one fire to lose everything he’s worked so hard to build. Most people would look at all of this and give up, but Cash describes it as merely a hiccup.

“I don’t know where we’ll go, but if we have to, we’ll do it off of the back of my truck and trailer, that’s fine until we get something built. We’re not going to stop,” Cash said.

A little after 10 Sunday morning, Cash got a call that a fire had started on the side of the food pantry building.

“Lancaster Fire Department was here real quick. The men and women worked real hard there was just nothing they could do.”

The building, and all of the food and supplies inside, were deemed a total loss, including the 200 Thanksgiving turkeys brought in Saturday.

“We hand out about a million pounds of food here a year. Feed about 400 seniors and 800 families a month. It’s not sunk in yet really what happened.”

Even harder to process, is the fact that, according to Lancaster Police, the fire was set intentionally. Chief Rodney Kidd said 60-year-old Debra Smalling was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Arson. Police said surveillance video showed her at the food pantry at the time of the fire.

According to the arrest citation, in the video, Smalling could be seen rummaging through a pile of paper and cardboard on the side of the food pantry.

Court documents said she admitted to throwing a lit cigarette butt into that pile.

But even in the darkest of times, humanity continues to shine through.

“They didn’t quit. just look around at all the volunteers, my friends, rodney and his crew. It’s Sunday, it’s their day off,” Cash said.

Cash doesn’t know where they’ll go or how they’ll rebuild yet, but with his friends and faith, he knows they won’t stop.

“It’s a little hiccup, but God’s got us.”

There’s information on how you can donate, on the Garrard County Food Pantry Facebook page.

The EMA director said there was nobody in the building during the fire and there were no injuries.

Smalling is being held in the Jessamine County Detention Center.

This story is developing. We’ll keep you updated.

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