Fires that destroyed two homes in the Mount Zion community of southwestern Wilkes County, one Tuesday night on Mount Zion Road and the other late last week less than a half mile away on Casper Hawkins Road, are under investigation.

Niki Hamby, fire investigator with the Wilkes Sheriff’s Office, said the fire on Casper Hawkins Road is believed to have been intentionally set and the cause of the fire on Mount Zion Road hasn't been determined.

Hamby said the house on Casper Hawkins Road apparently was destroyed by fire Thursday because people living nearby smelled smoke then, but owners David and Gail Crane didn’t know it had burned down until they went to the property Saturday. They hadn’t been there since the prior Monday.

He said there was no electricity to the house, about 24-foot-by-24-foot, and the Cranes used it as a part-time summer residence. Hamby said the front door of the house, locked with a padlock and hasp, had been forced open.

Firefighters were dispatched to the fire on Mount Zion Road at 10:31 p.m. Tuesday and found the house, located next door to a Champion Fire Department substation, fully engulfed in flames, said Champion Fire Chief Craig Hollar.

The Ferguson and Goshen fire departments were dispatched to assist and the Millers Creek Fire Department was on standby for Champion at the main Champion station. Hollar said a Goshen firefighter received a minor injury when he slipped on a ladder.

He said about three-quarters of the 30-foot-by-60-foot house burned to the ground. It was a wood frame structure with an addition with a brick façade. “It looks like the fire might have started around the middle of the house.”

When Hamby and Hollar were interviewed at mid-morning Wednesday, it hadn’t yet been determined if anyone was living in the house, but it had electricity from Blue Ridge Energy. They said ownership of the house also hadn’t been determined.

Hollar said firefighters were on the scene until 4 a.m. Wednesday, partly because they were making sure no one was in the house when it burned down. He said no vehicles were parked in the driveway.

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