Arson suspected in house fire on La Grange Road - Rothenburger lifts burning ban

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By Lisa King

Shelby County Fire Chief Bobby Cowherd said arson is suspected as the cause of a house fire Tuesday that completely destroyed a structure on La Grange Road.

The fire broke out around 4 p.m. on a farm at 2440 La Grange Road, and Cowherd said the structure was completely engulfed when firefighters arrived.

The old farm house was vacant, and Cowherd said he thought it had been unoccupied for at least 10 years.

He said that he found it suspicious that there were no electrical storms on Tuesday and that the house did not have electricity.

"How else would it catch fire like that?" he said.

Cowherd said that he has no leads in the case, which is being investigated by his department as well as the state fire marshal.

"Our guys were on the scene in a matter of just a few minutes, and nobody saw anything," he said. "There were no vehicles around, and they didn't pass anybody on the road near there."

Cowherd said Thursday that he was worried about another fire-related concern -- the outdoor burning ban, which was put in place earlier this month because of the extremely dry conditions that have persisted.

"Some people are just ignoring it," he said. "I don't know if they don't know about it or are ignoring it, or what. I'm sure the county judge has not lifted it."

But Shelby County Judge Executive Rob Rothenburger called The Sentinel-News Thursday and said he was going to lift the ban, as of today because of recent rainfall.

Cowherd said that even though he's fairly sure that the house fire on La Grange Road was not caused by illegal outdoor brush burning, disregarding a burning ban could cause a dire situation.

"It can be really dangerous to burn brush in really dry conditions," he said.

Sarah Johns, ranger for the Kentucky Division of Forestry for Shelby County, said that both rangers and local law enforcement officials can enforce a burning ban. Individuals in violation of such a ban are subject to a fine of $100-$500 and can be imprisoned for up to six months, or both, she said.

Johns added that usually a written warning is issued for the first violation and repeat offenders will be cited. She has not written a citation so far this fall, she said.

"I know the fire departments have had some issues with some land owners this year, but no citations have been written, I don't think," she said.