“There is nothing to indicate there was any arson,” but the department hasn’t determined the cause, Fire Marshal Scott Tucker said.
The flames broke out while its sole occupant, 10-year tenant Clay Allen, 51, who said he was hunting deer on nearby wooded property the lifelong Marietta resident owns.
“When I got to the corner, I could see the fire blazing from the back side of the house,” he said about returning home around 8:30 p.m. “I got the water hose and tried to put it out as best I could. When I was doing that, I could hear the fire trucks coming.”
Firefighters got the call at 8:36 p.m. and arrived at 8:41 p.m., Tucker said,
“Units arrived on scene to find heavy smoke showing and bystanders advising there was possibly someone inside,” he said in a statement. “Crews were able to contain the fire to the residence and allow for a fire investigation to be initiated.”
No one was in the four-bedroom, two-bath house near the intersection with Mountain View Drive except Clay Allen’s black Labrador, Max, who escaped, and pit bull, Sadie, who died.
Clay Allen’s son, Claborn Allen of Marietta, said Sadie ran and hid in a rear bedroom when two 16-ounce propane containers on the back deck exploded.
“The way the fire came up the back side of the house from the electrical box, it set off propane tanks on the porch,” Claborn Allen said. “The dog ran to the back bedroom and got got by the smoke.”
Clay Allen lost antiques, hunting trophies, an heirloom painting and furniture he made. Clay Allen is a woodworker who owns Allen’s Interiors, a commercial laminate cabinetry shop in Acworth.
“My dad is just real sad,” Claborn Allen said. “He rented, and he didn’t have insurance on it. It was a devastating experience.”
Clay Allen rented the house for $1,000 a month, his son said.
The Cobb County Tax Commission website shows the property’s fair market value is about $150,000.
David Haddle, vice president of property management company Hubert Realty, said the house is owned by California residents Alex and Karen Hodges.
“They’re still trying to figure out what happened,” Haddle said.
State Farm insurance adjusters will be investigating, Haddle said, but until then he was at a loss for more details.
Claborn Allen said Hubert Realty contributed to the fire.
“It has to do with the realty company not keeping their property up,” he said. “They were supposed to keep maintenance up, and they didn’t do anything for 10 years.”
Haddle said while the gutters and roof have been worked on, he did not know of any history of fire hazards on the property.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said. “Nothing that would be fire-related.”
Claborn Allen said he was also unhappy with the fire department
“They just got there and there was, like, 15 people out there and they didn’t jump into action right away,” he said. “They waited until the whole house was on fire before they really started spraying it down.”
Tucker, a 30-year fire-fighting veteran, said setup time is crucial, but its pace can frustrate bystanders.
“It seems like an eternity before they can get water on the fire. It doesn’t matter if it’s two minutes or 20 minutes,” he said. “All you see is your house is on fire and there’s no water on it yet.”
Also, firefighting strategy is not always clear to the onlooker.
“(Firefighters) on the outside don’t typically spray a lot of water when there are (firefighters) on the inside, because it does what we call ‘steaming them out,’” Tucker said.
Clay Allen said his neighbor, retired firefighter Len Benfield, gave him some perspective.
“He assured me that what you’re seeing is standard procedure,” Clay Allen said.
However, it was not entirely soothing.
“I had a hard time understanding why they didn’t approach the situation more aggressively,” Clay Allen said. “It’s very hard to understand, procedure or no procedure.”