By Debbie Hall
A “substantial reward” is available for information that leads to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for allegedly burning political flags, and donations are being accepted after a blaze gutted a Patrick Springs home.
The two incidents are not related, according to Eric O’Connell, of the Patrick County Sheriff’s Office.
The first incident was reported at 12:37 a.m. on Nov. 4, when a homeowner reported a fire to property located at 80 Ronald St., a release from the sheriff’s office stated.
Investigators arriving at the scene noted “there was obvious fire damage to the flags that were hanging on the front porch, but no damage to the home. The person(s) responsible also threw the homeowner’s political signs in their driveway,” the release stated.
The incident remains under investigation “due to a suspicion of potential arson,” O’Connell said.
At approximately 1:50 p.m., also on Nov. 4, “homeowner Justin Montgomery called 911 to report that his mobile home was on fire. Members of the Patrick Springs, Patrick Henry, and Stuart volunteer fire departments arrived and were able to extinguish the fire” quickly, the release stated.
Justin and Melissa Montgomery lost all of their belongings in the afternoon blaze, according to online reports.
Due to the suspicious timing of the structure fire, Patrick County Sheriff’s investigators and the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigations conducted a thorough investigation to determine the cause of the fire.
They determined the afternoon fire “originated inside of the home. This is supported by the statements given to Investigators by the homeowners, who discovered the fire. After de-layering the fire scene, investigators found no signs of any accelerants or trailers throughout the home. During the fire scene examination, there was clear evidence of an electrical wire malfunction that did not appear to be thermally caused, in the area of origin,” the release stated.
Essentially, the blaze was caused by an electrical issue, O’Connell said, and added a Certified Fire Investigator (CFI) with the state police, Special Agent Matthew Wade, was summoned to the scene to determine the cause of the fire.
The home, a house trailer, was “still dripping” with water from firefighters’ efforts when Wade arrived at the scene, O’Connell said. After conducting his investigation, Wade “made a 100 percent determination the fire was electrical in nature.”
The flag burning incident is unrelated to the house fire, O’Connell said, adding it was a “completely separate incident,” outside of the home. He also noted it occurred several hours before the house fire.
Patrick authorities “continue to actively investigate the first incident, where the two flags were deliberately burned,” the release stated.
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact investigator Steve Austin at 276-692-5950.
Justin and Melissa Montgomery did not return calls for comment. However, a GoFundMe page was created to help their family.
To donate, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/justin-amp-melissa-lost-everything-in-a-fire?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=p_cf%20share-flow-1&fbclid=IwAR0B2Dv7UuBzNgDaaULhG_JlwphmZFNzGOIh0hSD_KVLfJ24j00zf8yw8RY, according to online information.