ALBANY, Ga. -- A warrant for arson in the first degree has been issued for James L. Ballard, 54, in connection with the recent fires at the Albany Heights apartment complex on Pine Avenue downtown, according to Albany Fire Department Chief James Carswell.
Carswell said AFD investigator Sam Harris and Albany Police Department investigator Maurice Jones conducted interviews with "persons of interest" and analyzed downtown videotapes preceding the fires before the warrant was issued.
According to Carswell, Ballard was present at the structure fire late on March 26 when members of the AFD and APD arrived, and was among the first to be interviewed. In addition, ongoing videos provided by the city of Albany were examined, as were videos from Albany Bank & Trust next door to the complex.
"It took a little while to build a case we were comfortable with," Carswell said.
As many as six separate fires were set in various parts of the complex, requiring three separate responses by AFD, Carswell said. But it was a burning sofa in the lobby that finally set off the sprinkler system and automatically summoned firefighters.
"If it hadn't been for the sprinkler system, the fire could have spread and become much more serious," Carswell said.
Carswell said that, according to the information he'd been given, Ballard had been a resident at the apartment complex until a few days before the fires, giving the suspect a possible motive for arson.
Ballard is currently in the Terrell County Jail on an unrelated charge. Further charges could be pending for Ballard in the Albany Heights case when all the facts have been considered, Carswell said.