A South Carolina man is accused of committing arson after the apartment building he was evicted from has burned down. The fire has left sixteen former residents of the apartment building homeless, though the man accused of the arson argues that the fire was accidental.
Forrest West, 46, is a resident of North Charleston, South Carolina, a coastal community known for its beaches, tourism, and high rent. West was charged with second-degree arson after his apartment building, Chicora Arms Apartments, went up in smoke.
Police have stated they believe West’s alleged motive would be his learning, on New Year’s Day, that he had been evicted.
Witnesses at the scene claim to have seen West outside the apartment building, clearly upset and frustrated, and loudly threatening to burn the place down. Those witnesses then saw West light fire to a pillow and lob it into his apartment unit, and the ensuing blaze consumed much of the building.
According to residents of the building, West had claimed the owner would be “getting his insurance money.”
Despite being accused of second-degree arson, West insists that the fire started on accident. During a bond-setting hearing, West told the judge that the fire was an accident, and that he had simply dropped his lighter. The judge set West’s bond for $15,000, apparently unconvinced by West’s protests of innocence.
Thirteen residents of the building (and three children) have been displaced from their homes as a result of the blaze. Thankfully, everyone was able to file out of the smoke-filled building before anyone was hurt or killed. However, the community is largely convinced that the blaze could have been deadly had they not acted swiftly.
Speaking with reporters, resident Lathronia Johnson stated, “That smoke could have gotten in through those windows or deeper through the doors or stuff. As big as the cloud was, it could have killed somebody.”
Another resident, Nathaniel McCloud, told reporters that West’s alleged arson made no sense to him.
“There’s no logic to what he did,” McCloud stated. “I just got me and my people to safety and watch the firemen do their job.”