Police say Arkansas fire got out of control, burned house

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GOSNELL, Ark. — A Gosnell, Arkansas man was cited for reckless burning after a storage building fire he admitted to setting got out of control and destroyed a nearby house.

Thirty-year-old Jacob Finch intended to “clear” his property on County Road 122, but he set the fire even after being told not to by the Gosnell Fire Department.

“He asked me if he could burn his residence down and he was instructed no, he could not,” said Andrew Wyles, a detective for the Gosnell Police Department and a volunteer firefighter.

When he drove the fire engine to Finch’s property Sunday, he said he saw a “pretty decent-sized storage building” not connected to the house that was on fire, and the east side of the residence had smoke and flames.

The fire, in its early stage, was first reported by an Air Evac helicopter that happened to be flying over the area.

According to the Mississippi County Sheriff’s incident report, “Air Evac advised that they could see someone that appeared to be pouring gas on the fire.”

The report also states that finch told a deputy he set the fire to clear the property.

“We was not notified that he was going to burn it,” Wyles said. “He’d asked previously, previous months to, but he never called and said ‘Hey, I’m fixin’ to burn this house down.’ If he had he had, he would have been told no.”

The vacant house reportedly was slated to be demolished.

A man who said he is Jacob Finch’s father would not go on camera but told us, “It was not his intention to burn down the house. He wanted to burn an old storage building that was located about 30 feet from the house. The wind picked up and the fire got out of control.”                                

He admitted Finch was trying to ignite the storage building with gasoline.

Wyles said controlled burns are only allowed in certain cases, and this wasn’t one of them. The fire not only destroyed the two structures, but burned several pine trees and started a few small grass fires.

Finch was cited for reckless burning and has a June 14 court date.

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