A South Carolina man allegedly set his apartment ablaze after learning he was being evicted.
Forrest West, 46, was charged with second-degree arson following a fire that broke out early on New Year’s Day at the Chicora Arms Apartments in North Charleston and left 16 people without a place to live.
When West appeared before court judge later the same morning, he tried to explain away the fire as a mishap.
“It was an accident; I dropped my lighter,” the man told the judge before his bond was set at $15,000, WCSC reported.
Witnesses told authorities they saw West outside of his apartment standing next to a dresser, burning a pillow and lobbing it into his unit, according to WCSC, citing an arrest affidavit.
Residents filed out of the smoke and flame-filled complex minutes before 1 a.m. on Wednesday. Some said they had also witnessed West trumpeting that he planned to burn down the building. West announced that the owner “would be getting his insurance money,” witnesses claimed, according to the WCSC.
Wes was served with an eviction notice the day before the fire was started, the document added.
While there were no reports of injuries, the fire quickly tore through West’s apartment and spread into six others. A total of 13 residents and three children were uprooted from their homes, fire officials told the outlet.
"There’s no logic to what he did," tenant Nathaniel McCloud told local ABC affiliate WCIV. "I just got me and my people to safety and watch the firemen do their job."
Another resident is convinced the fire could have been fatal.
“That smoke could have gotten in through those windows or deeper through the doors or stuff. As big as the cloud was, it could have killed somebody,” Lathronia Johnson, who lives at the Chicora Arms and witnessed the fire, told WCSC.
The woman remained concerned for her displaced neighbors.
"Everybody screaming panicking like this whole thing about to burn down," said Johnson. "I hurt a lot for them. They’re like my family. Everybody in this complex is my family."
The American Red Cross is helping the tenants who were displaced because of the fire, according to WCSC.
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