GF fire captain accused of arson

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By Nancy Parsons

GREAT FALLS - Great Falls Fire Capt. David Dutton is facing an arson charge in a fire at the town fire department and is considered "a person of interest" in three other fires, authorities say.

Dutton, of 10 Farrow St., was charged last week with third-degree arson, an arrest warrant from the S.C. Law Enforcement Division said.

An arrest warrant says Dutton used the liquid antibacterial hand sanitizer Germ-X to burn a desk at the Great Falls Fire Department. Germ-X contains ethyl alcohol, a flammable compound.

The desk was not destroyed by the fire, a fire department member said.

Dutton was jailed at the Chester County Detention Center and released on a $10,000 cash bond on Feb. 13.

Maj. James McNeil of the Chester County Sheriff's Office said Dutton is considered a person of interest in two houses on Richburg Road on Oct. 3 and 4, 2007. The houses burned within five hours of each other.

The Great Falls Fire Department requested that SLED's arson team investigate the two fires. The first house at 5901 Richburg Road was totally destroyed in the fire. Electricity was not in service at the house. At 5919 Richburg Road, the walls of the house remained standing, but the roof collapsed in a fire.

Both houses were owned by sisters Betty and Susan Stroud.

"We haven't called him a suspect yet. We are going to try to talk to him about that," McNeil said. "He is definitely a person of interest in that case."

McNeil said Dutton is also considered a person of interest in a fire on Mountain Gap Road, also in Chester County, in October 2007.

McNeil said Dutton was on duty with the Great Falls Fire Department during all three fires.

Dutton was hired full-time by the town of Great Falls in October. He worked about a year part-time, filling in vacant shifts while Chief John Jones and Assistant Chief Steve Varnadore were out of work.

Great Falls Town Clerk Julie Blackwell said Dutton is still employed by the town but has been suspended without pay.