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Suspect arrested in connection with fire, burglary in Camp

Monday, April 25, 2011

State fire investigators spent much of April 13 looking for evidence in a suspected arson fire at a home on North Camp Creek Road. On April 14, Chris Youngblood of Salem was arrested for Burglary and Theft of Property in connection with a break-in before the fire was reported. Photo by Richard Irby
An April 12 fire, which destroyed a home in Camp, is under investigation as a possible arson fire and a Salem man, David Christopher Youngblood, has been arrested in connection with a break-in before the fire.

About 4:30 p.m., 911 Dispatch notified the Camp Volunteer Fire Department of the fire on North Camp Creek Road. Salem firefighters were called as backup and were first to arrive on the scene, followed closely by the Camp Fire Department.

"By the time we got there, it was pretty bad," said Camp Fire Chief Richard Navarro. "It was moving pretty quickly and half the house was gone."

The home, belonging to Karen Bontrager, is an old stone structure with a wood frame addition on the south side of the building.

The fire began in the old stone house, where the central area was gutted and a large portion of the roof collapsed into it.

Firefighters concentrated on stopping the fire from destroying the addition to the home and were able to limit damage to it.

Camp firefighter Mike Harlow, who entered the burning home during the attack on the fire, was overcome and treated for heat exhaustion.

On April 13, Arkansas State Police Fire Investigators and the Fulton County Sheriff's Department carefully inspected the damage.

According to family members who were allowed to look into the home as the fire was brought under control, it appeared a big screen television and some guns were missing. They believed someone may have entered the home in a burglary, and set the fire to cover up the crime.

The Sheriff's Department stayed overnight to secure the scene and called in the investigators, who worked for more than two hours, gathering evidence.

"The investigators used trained dogs to try to determine whether an accelerant had been used," said Sheriff Buck Foley. "It was determined where the fire was set."

On April 14, David Christopher Youngblood, 27, of Salem was charged with residential burglary, theft of property, theft by receiving and being a felon in possession of firearms.

"We have not recovered the television and he (the suspect) has not admitted to setting the fire," said Foley.

According to the affidavit for an arrest warrant, Youngblood, a close family friend and frequent visitor to the Bontrager home, admitted stealing guns from the home on March 17 or 18 and April 7 and pawning them. Since he pawned a rifle on April 12, the day of the fire, he is also charged with stealing a gun during the break-in that day.

Youngblood was identified as a suspect because he did not come to support the family after the fire, and he has a criminal history of burglary and theft and involvement in suspicious fires.

Karen Bontrager, owner of Hair Kreations in Salem, and her son, Josh, lived in the home.

Bontrager and loved ones were at the home on April 13, waiting for investigators to finish their work so they could enter the home to see what could be salvaged.

Bontrager has insurance on the home but a settlement may be delayed, since the cause of the fire appears suspicious and is under investigation.

Donation jars are being placed in the community and an account has been opened at the Bank of Salem for contributions to help Bontrager with living expenses.

Mammoth Spring Fire

On Wednesday, April 13, a fire destroyed a home on Fairview Road in Mammoth Spring.

No one was at home when a neighbor called 911 about 2:30 p.m.

According to Assistant Mammoth Spring Chief Dewayne French, the fire was burning out of control when first units arrived on the scene.

The Thayer Fire Department sent volunteers and a water truck, and volunteers from the Camp and Morriston Volunteer Departments also helped fight the fire.

Firefighters were able to save a motorcycle and some personal items from a basement, which had outside doors, but the home was declared a total loss.

It appears the fire began in the kitchen or living room area of the home. The exact cause has not been determined.

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