Fire chief: Clarence man packed suitcase, set home on fire

The elderly man who lived in the home was arrested at the scene after he told the officer he set the place on fire. (John Garlock/KTVO) Video: Cristina A. Morrison via Facebook

A fire burned a northeast Missouri home to the ground Monday morning, and investigators said the man who lived there started it.

At 10:40 a.m., the Clarence Fire Department was called to 400 West Walnut Street after a 911 call reporting a house on fire.

Fire Chief Bill Hall told KTVO it is a case of arson.

“The gentleman [who] lived there started the fire,” Hall said.

The Clarence Police Department arrested George Gale, 55, of Clarence, at the scene.

The fire chief said Gale had his suitcase packed and told the arresting officer that he had set fire to the house.

Chief Raymond Barton told KTVO Monday afternoon that Gale confessed to the crime. Gale reportedly told investigators that he gathered items and put them in the middle of the living room floor, doused them with charcoal lighter fluid and set them on fire.

Barton said Gale is on 24-hour hold in the Shelby County Jail. Authorities are seeking a charge of Second-Degree Arson against the suspect.

The chief said strong winds caused flames to quickly engulf the home.

“It put fuel into the fire with all the wind we had,” Hall said.

The home is a total loss.

Gale did not own the home. It is owned by Donald Simpson of Paris, Missouri.

Simpson told KTVO he had bought the home at a tax sale in the fall of 2016. He had been encouraging Gale, who had lived in the home for a number of years, to move out so that he could live somewhere safer.

Simpson said the home was in terrible shape. He said he had not pressured Gale to move out, but he thought he would be better off living somewhere else.

The Shelbina Fire Department also helped battle Monday's blaze.

No one was hurt during the incident.

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