Authorities believe person recently evicted from boarding home set it on fire

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Investigators are looking for a suspected arsonist after a fire at a boarding home Tuesday night.

The Baton Rouge Fire Department said it happened on Terrace Avenue at Thomas Delpit Drive just before 9:45 p.m.

Robert Combs said the evidence has led investigators to believe someone recently evicted from the home is to blame.

He added the former occupant allegedly got into a minor altercation and tossed some type of flammable into a front room of the home.

A suspect, though, has not yet been identified.

Walter White had lived in the home about a year and a half before Tuesday's fire. White said he was watching TV when someone banged on his door warning him of the fire.

"They kicked everybody's door down, and they come got everybody out of there, including me. I was the last one that got out there. I come out the back window," he said.

White said most of the home's 10 tenants were elderly. They've temporarily been moved to a nearby motel.

Combs urged any witnesses to come forward with information.

"The arson case is pretty much like a homicide. If you don't have someone to come up and speak out with what actually happened and what they saw, it's rather hard or difficult to solve," he said.

Over the past five years, the Fire Investigators at the Baton Rouge Fire Department have made enormous strides to find and arrest individuals responsible for intentionally setting fires in the city. The department went from a 5 percent arrest rate in 2009 to a 30 percent arrest rate in 2013, which is well above the national average of about 13 percent.

  • 2014: 66 calls for investigators - 49 percent (through March) determined to be arson – 12 percent arrest rate.
  • 2013: 280 calls for investigators – 45 percent determined to be arson – 30 percent arrest rate
  • 2012: 334 calls for investigators - 55 percent determined to be arson – 17 percent arrest rate
  • 2011: 361 calls for investigators – 46 percent determined to be arson – 16 percent arrest rate
  • 2010: 333 calls for investigators – 53 percent determined to be arson – 14 percent arrest rate
  • 2009: 387 calls for investigators – 55 percent determined to be arson – 5 percent arrest rate

The same home was the scene of a homicide in July 2012.

39-year-old Louis Spears was standing outside of the house when someone pulled up in a vehicle and opened fire. The shooter exited the vehicle and cornered Spears on the porch. He was shot multiple times and died on the scene.

Homicide detectives said that crime was likely one of retaliation. It remains unsolved.

Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 344-7867.

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