As St. George firefighters tried to extinguish a blaze Sunday night at the Jeffersonian Apartments, one of the building’s residents began obstructing their efforts, officials said.
Soon the irate man in the blue shirt began shouting, cursing and punching a fence in anger, neighbors said.
That led to questions from investigators and to his being booked on a count of simple arson.
When the irate man, later identified as Jeffery Chandler Jones, 33, tried to re-enter the two-story complex at 7950 Jefferson Highway, a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Jones and placed him in the back of a Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicle at about 8:30 p.m., a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman said.
Once investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office learned the fire originated in his apartment, they questioned him later that night, Fire Marshal Butch Browning said.
“It sounds like, to me, he was in the way of the firefighters or obstructed what they were trying to do,” Browning said. “Typically, if your apartment catches on fire, you’re distraught.”
Investigators learned that Jones, who celebrated his 33rd birthday Sunday, and his wife became embroiled in an argument and she left, Browning said. Soon after, Jones lit a cigarette and intentionally set fire to a mattress, Browning said.
As the flames began spreading on the mattress, Jones dragged the flaming cushion onto his balcony, where the flames quickly spread throughout the rest of the building, Browning said
St. George firefighters received the call at 7:35 p.m., and when they arrived at the complex four minutes later, flames were emerging from a second-story apartment, St. George Fire Department spokesman Eldon Ledoux said.
Firefighters sounded a second alarm for more units at 7:52 p.m., Ledoux said.
By the time the flames were declared under control at 8:15 p.m., fire and smoke had spread to several nearby units.
Two of the 10 apartments in the building sustained major fire damage. The remaining eight sustained damage from smoke, heat and water. All 10 apartments were left without electricity Sunday night because the fire burned through wires in the attic.
A vehicle parked near the building also sustained damage.
Ledoux said quick action by the firefighters kept the fire from spreading to the neighboring building. The roof lines of the two buildings are about 4 feet apart.
Two residents were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, and one firefighter was treated for a minor heat-related injury, but none required treatment at the hospital, Ledoux said.
Jones was booked into Parish Prison early Monday a count of simple arson. Browning said the investigation is continuing.