Boone Police, Fire Department work together on arson case

Tucker Wulff, Reporter

A joint investigation between the Boone Fire Department and Boone Police Department determined a primary suspect in an uninhabited house fire at 651 Old East King St. on Dec. 26. 

The Boone Fire Department was dispatched at 9:21 p.m. for response to the fire at the one story structure, said Amy Flieg, the Boone Fire Department Fire Marshal. 

The fire was put out by 9:31 p.m., Flieg said. After suppressing the fire, investigators determined it was intentionally set. 

The first firefighters on the scene were able to see the initial fire and suppress it through a window on the right-hand side of the structure, Flieg said.

After the fire was suppressed, “we had a team packed up in air packs, (who) went inside and found another area of fire on the left-hand side,” Flieg said. 

The fire was deemed intentionally set because of “two distinct, separate, points of origin,” Flieg said. 

“If you have two completely separate areas of fire that do not connect in any way, then it’s pretty hard to be accidental,” Flieg said.

The house had not been rented in eight years, though, evidence including food, trash and clothing suggested that people have stayed there, Flieg said.  

Though the investigation is ongoing, as of Jan. 13, Boone Fire Department and Boone Police were able to work together on the case and find a primary suspect: Bobby Allen Pennington of Ashe County. 

The house where the fire took place is located at 651 Old East King St., off of U.S. Highway 421-S.

“Boone PD, if it’s in the city limits, always responds to a fire,” Flieg said. “If at any point we determine that we believe it is intentionally set or a criminal act, then we involve the detectives with the Boone Police Department or if it’s in the county, with the county detectives.”

Boone Police Department detectives “do a great job, but they are not trained in fire,” so Boone Fire explains to the police how they came to their conclusion, Flieg said.

“From that point, it was on them to collect evidence and interview witnesses and determine what had happened,” Flieg said. “We give it to them and they run with it.” 

According to a news release issued by Boone Police Department, Detective Corporal Candace Burlingame located Pennington at the Ashe County Detention Facility where he was in custody for violating his parole by burning personal property and calling in a false bomb report on a public building. 

Pennington was served with an arrest warrant Jan. 7, according to the release.

The case is currently “in the hands of the district attorney,” said Geoff Hayes, administrative sergeant and public information officer with Boone Police Department. 

Boone Fire Department and Boone Police Department have worked together on similar cases before, Hayes said.

According to the news release, three other cases involving suspected arson have occurred within the last six months and are under investigation.

After the fire was extinguished at 651 Old East King St., the two departments were able to work with “complete cooperation,” Flieg said. 

The Boone Police news release stated that Pennington is currently scheduled for a court date on Feb. 14 and is being held under a $30,000 secured bond.

Hayes said Pennington is innocent until proven guilty and that the case will go through district courts.

“I think that it was, obviously, a thorough and competent investigation, and I think that Detective Burlingame did an awesome job,” Hayes said. “I’m proud of the work that she and the rest of the unit did along with Boone Fire.”