Two weekend fires — within blocks of each other — have been deemed arson and a $10,000 reward is being offered for the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.

According to Fire Chief Sid Adams, Walker County Emergency Services responded to a vacant house fire in the 200 block of East Peachtree Street on Friday, Aug. 4, around 1:25 a.m.

The East Peachtree Street residence is located in the county, but Rossville Fire Department responded to the fire along with the county, Adams said.

About 20 minutes later, at 1:45 a.m., firefighters were dispatched to the 700 block of Short Street.

The Short Street fire was located in the city of Rossville, but only a few short blocks from the East Peachtree Street fire.

Only the city responded to the Short Street fire, Adams said.

Given the short time between the two vacant residences — neither had working utilities or power — Adams said it is highly likely these two fires are related.

The state fire marshal deemed both fires as arson.

Adams said police have not seen arson in the city for many years.

Adams said the East Peachtree Street fire involved a vacant residence that was being used as storage, where the items being stored took the brunt of the damage.

The Short Street arson fire involved a vacant residence with only a few items of furniture in the home. Adams said it appears someone started the blaze by setting a recliner on fire.

Both fires caused extensive interior damage, but the structures remained, thus not enough damage to consider the two residences as total losses.

Around $60,000 in damages total occurred at the houses, according to reports.

Adams said evidence was collected at both scenes. The evidence has been sent to the crime lab for further investigation.

The city of LaFayette is also investigating a serial arsonist case after three fires were deemed arson in the past few months. The first arson fire being in early May and two other cases in June and July.

Adams encourages citizens to call Walker County 911 if they see anyone or anything suspicious around vacant properties, especially in the late evening and early morning hours.

The owner of the East Peachtree Street residence has been contacted, but the owner of the Short Street residence is still unknown and police are trying to locate the owner, Adams said.

The Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire Commission's Office is offering a $10,000 reward for information on the fires.

In a press release, Deputy Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner Jay Florence announced the following:

"State Fire Investigators determined that fires on Friday, August 4 ,at 231 E. Peachtree Street, and Saturday, August 5, at 702 Short Street in Rossville, Ga., were intentionally set. Property damage was estimated at $35,000 for the Peachtree Street home and $25,000 for the house on Short Street.

'We believe these incidents are connected,' Florence said. 'The homes are approximately two blocks apart, and a similar method was used to start the fire. Whoever is setting these fires should be considered dangerous.'

Florence is asking anyone with information about these fires to call the Georgia Arson Hotline at 1-800-282-5804. Rewards of up to $10,000 are given for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the fire. Calls are answered 24 hours a day; callers can choose to remain anonymous.

First-degree arson is a felony with a penalty of one to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $50,000."

Josh O'Bryant is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He can be reached at the Walker County Messenger office at 706-638-1859 and by email at jobryant@npco.com.