Home for developmentally disabled adults deliberately set on fire

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An early morning fire has displaced residents of a home for developmentally disabled adults in Rome. Now firefighters are searching for an arsonist.

“There's one point of origin on the far end of the house, to the left and one on the right hand side,” said Rome Battalion Fire Chief Gene Proctor as he pointed to both sources from inside the burned home. He said with two points or origin, at two bedrooms, from inside the home, he's confident this was a deliberately set blaze.

“Fire doesn't skip that far that distance so it's probably an arson fire,” said Battalion Chief Proctor.

The fire alarm went off around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. The fire caused moderate damage, forcing the four developmentally disabled men who live here to be temporarily relocated. Lamar Paul, who lives next door because his grandson Michael lives at the home, said it's fortunate all the residents who lived here were away when the arsonist struck.

“I think he's a sick person, very sick in the mind to do this low to developmentally disabled people, there's some nice guys here,” said Lamar Paul.

Resident Michael Paul was direct.

“Put them in jail,” said Michael Paul.

The home Michael Paul and the others share has the acronym DIGS, Developing Independence Growth and Security.

“This is what we hope for our adults with developmental disabilities, we like to feel that having a home like this helps in that,” said Barbara Monday, the Executive Director of DIGS.

Two weeks ago, officials said someone lit the pine straw outside on fire with residents inside. The states' Fire Marshal's Office is now involved, offering a $10,000 reward to stop the fire starter before it escalates.

“They'll start off small, doing small crimes, building up, then they'll build up to empty houses, you don't know when they're going to build up to burning a house that's actually occupied,” said Battalion Fire Chief Gene Proctor.

The executive director of DIGS said it'll be about three months before the residents are able to return home. Meantime, Rome's fire department hopes they will get enough tips to lead them to the arsonist.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Rome Fire Department at 706-236-4510.