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3 Gastonia arsons reported

Arson at a newly built Habitat for Humanity house – one of three cases reported early Tuesday – might keep a single mother and her two children from moving into their new home on schedule.

The early morning fires that damaged three structures in Gastonia, including the Habitat house, were set intentionally, authorities said.

There were no injuries.

According to Mary Harris, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Gaston County, this if the first case of a local Habitat house being set on fire.

“It's hard to believe there are people doing this kind of stuff,” she said.

The first of the three fires – the Habitat house at 2609 McArver St. – was reported around 2 a.m. Tuesday. Gastonia Fire Department spokesman Jim Landis said damage was minor.

The family was to move into the house at the end of the month. Harris said a contractor is assessing the damage and an insurance claim will be filed. The three-bedroom house was built by the Gaston County Homebuilders Association during a one-week project that began May 31.

It's the second Habitat house in the neighborhood, and four more are planned there.

Harris said the dedication ceremony for the McArver Street house will proceed as scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday.

About an hour after the Habitat house fire was discovered, a similar fire was reported a few blocks away at an apartment at 680 Clyde St. Landis said the occupant escaped without injury.

“We can't prove the fires were connected,” Landis said. “We don't have much to go on.”

Several miles away, around 6 a.m., firefighters found heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of a structure at 2033 Myrtle Ave.

The fire was contained to the kitchen and back porch and was brought under control in about 10 minutes. Damage was estimated at $15,000.

Landis said all the fires were started with combustible materials such as straw, grass and paper.

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