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'Suspicious' fire forces family from their Oroville home

By Colin Steiner, csteiner@krcrtv.com
Published On: Aug 11 2013 08:18:00 PM CDT

A 'suspicious' fire forced a family from their Oroville home Sunday morning

OROVILLE, Calif. -

An Oroville family was forced to scramble out of their burning home early Sunday morning in a fire authorities say is ‘suspicious’ and likely arson.

The blaze started just after 3 a.m. Sunday on the 5100 block of Oakdale Ave.

The fire apparently started behind a boat and spread to a truck, a garage and then to a portion of the house.

CALFIRE responded and was able to keep the fire from spreading any further. Damage is estimated at about $80,000.

Although not yet going as far as calling it arson, CALFIRE is calling it ‘suspicious.’

“We've collected some evidence, including some witness statements in the area, and the fire is very suspicious,” says CALFIRE Batallion Chief Russ Fowler. “We're still following up on some leads but it definitely started somewhat in the area behind the boat and under very suspicious circumstances.”

Paula Cohn, who lives at the home with her mother, daughter and niece, says she’s at a loss.

“I just have no idea why it would happen and why anyone would jeopardize four women's lives,” Cohn says. “I think they're cowards and I think they should be ashamed of themselves. And think if it was your mother or your niece or grandmother. How would you feel?”

Cohn's daughter, Carrie Mullett, awoke to see the flames flickering through her window and quickly ran outside.

“As I came around the corner here I saw the entire boat on fire,” says Mullett, “it was bright orange flames—and it had just gone to the garage right there and then to my truck door here.”

Surveillance footage from a neighbor’s house across the street shows a flicker of light, then a motion sensor turns on and a car drives by along Oakdale Ave. A few seconds later the flames start to erupt.

Now Cohn—who just moved to the area in May—hopes whoever could be responsible will be caught.

“I have not met one person in Oroville that has been disrespectful or mean,” Cohn says. “Everybody has been very nice here except for these cowardly people that do this to us. They could have killed us.”

Anyone who may have been in the area before the fire, may have witnessed anything or has any information is asked to call CALFIRE.