Fire destroys home

Carlene Sailor of Tulsa, Okla., waits Wednesday while her husband speaks to a Charleston police arson investigator about a fire that destroyed the house at 2 Kracke St. that they bought earlier this month. The cause of the fire has been labeled as suspici

The house at 2 Kracke St. was going to be their home away from home, a place for Carlene and Steve Sailor of Tulsa, Okla., to stay while visiting their sons in Charleston.

"It was typical Charleston," Carlene Sailor said, "with the downstairs, upstairs configuration and the long porches on the side. We liked the location."

But on Wednesday — just nine days after the Sailors closed on the property — the house was reduced to another burned-out blight on the downtown landscape by what authorities are calling a suspicious fire.

Firefighters say they responded to the home about 4:30 a.m. and came upon bright, orange flames shooting from the roof. They immediately evacuated residents from surrounding homes until they could bring it under control about a half-hour later.

Investigators believe the blaze started on the porch and quickly spread to the attic, said Mark Ruppel, public information officer for the Charleston Fire Department.

The structure sits near the epicenter of a string of arsons that have destroyed dozens of vacant or rental houses for the last six years, but investigators said Wednesday that it's too soon to tell whether it might be connected.

The fire is the second suspicious fire on Kracke Street since April 2004, when a house at 16 Kracke St. suffered about $50,000 damage from a trash can fire that authorities suspected was intentionally set. Nearby Bogard Street has had at least two arson fires in recent years.

Authorities say they are working urgently to solve the string of fires before someone is seriously injured or killed.

Carlene Sailor said she and her husband didn't know about the serial arsons until Wednesday.

The couple, who manages rental property in Tulsa, have been traveling back and forth from Oklahoma to Charleston several times a year to visit their two sons, both of whom live and work in Charleston. Their sons encouraged their parents to move, so they looked around and settled on the large, white house on Kracke Street.

They bought the house with plans to fix it up so they could rent three of the units while staying in the fourth. They had just started cleaning the house up this week in the unfamiliar Charleston humidity and were preparing to turn on the electricity in part of the house Wednesday when one of their sons who works at MUSC called and told them the house had caught fire.

Sailor said they had insurance on the house but were still waiting to hear what the investigation would yield.

"We don't know what's going to happen now," she said.