Officials suspect arson in fire at vacant Biloxi-owned home

pochs@sunherald.com Twitter: PatrickOchsJuly 2, 2014 

BILOXI -- The city's plans for its recently purchased home off of Porter Avenue will have to be put on hold for the immediate future.

The vacant home next to the visitors center caught fire early Wednesday morning, suffering "pretty significant damage," Biloxi Fire Chief Joe Boney said.

He said they received a call at 2:46 a.m. and it took firefighters about 30 minutes to get the blaze under control.

No one was injured and no adjacent buildings were damaged, Boney said.

He said they believe someone set the fire, which started on the rear porch, but are still investigating the cause.

Bill Raymond, Biloxi's historic administrator/executive planner, said the fire won't extinguish the city's plans for the home -- it just might delay them a bit.

"We hoped to take this house and make it another event venue that we could rent along with the visitors center," he said. "We have a lot of events that are too small for this area, or, because (the visitors center) stays booked so much, that would give us another opportunity for people to be able to have an event or meeting."

Raymond said the home's roof and northeast corner were the most pressing needs after Wednesday morning's fire.

The city bought the home about two months ago as part of Phase II of the Lighthouse Park and Visitors Center project.

"The previous owner had done a great job on exterior restoration and hadn't started the interior work, which was perfect for my needs because I wouldn't feel like I was damaging anything when I went to convert it," Raymond said.

Raymond said officials were working on bids for emergency repairs "to secure the building to minimize damage because the roof is opened up right now."

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