• 70°

Fire marshal releases report

By Staff
Two blazes possibly set day of fatal Quail Run fire
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
The State of Alabama State Fire Marshal's Office released the results of the July 28 Quail Run Apartments fire investigation last week after the Morgan County Grand Jury failed to return an indictment against a Decatur man.
According to the report, Joshua Harris, 20, was facing indictment for the fire that killed a family of three, destroyed a 12-unit apartment building, and heavily damaged three vehicles.
The investigation established that the fire originated in apartment C-7, then occupied by April Terry, 22. The victims, Mario Salazar, 24, Maria Salazar, 22, and infant Kevin Salazar, were found dead in the bathroom of apartment C-8.
"It was obvious that the fire had extended from apartment C-7 and the balcony and hallway to apartment C-8," the report stated.
The investigation confirmed Harris, Terry, and a female friend of Terry's were inside apartment C-7 when the fire was set.
"Terry and Harris were arguing and Harris set fire to a picture and waved it around in the apartment, then went outside and supposedly threw it off the rear balcony," the report stated. "Harris went back inside C-7 and Terry and (friend) left going to the mailboxes across the street. They stated that they saw the chair on the balcony on fire. One of them stopped a motorist and borrowed a cell phone to call the fire department. Harris stayed inside the apartment several minutes after the two females left."
While investigators maintain that the fire originated from the burning photograph, the report indicates that a second fire may have been set.
The investigation revealed there was a pile of men's clothing located in the middle of the floor of apartment C-7 with a deep, heavily charred area around it.
"This charred area was similar to charring found where a flammable or combustible liquid has been poured and ignited," the report said.
Deputy State Fire Marshals conducting the investigation issued the opinion there was a second fire set in the living room of apartment C-7.
According to a grand jury statement, the results of the investigation conducted by the State Fire Marshal's Office, Hartselle Police and Fire Departments did not yield sufficient evidence to charge Harris with a crime.
"This was definitely a set fire," Hartselle Fire Chief Rickey Joe Smith said. "If not, the case would never have made it to the grand jury."
"I felt like they would indict," Lt. Tom Sparks of the Hartselle Police Department said. "It is the position of the Hartselle Police Department that he (Harris) lit a picture on fire, tossed it out the door, and it landed in a chair where the fire began. I can't imagine what could have happened for the grand jury not to indict."

x