MARY MEAUX — 2 suspicious fires causing concern

Published 12:13 am Thursday, January 16, 2020

Port Arthur has seen two major house fires since Jan. 1, and at both, neighbors reported seeing several males leaving before the fires started.

Port Arthur Fire Marshal Paul Washburn said the descriptions of the individuals do not match, which means there are two sets of individuals who either accidently or purposely set fires to vacant structures.

The first vacant house fire was at 2615 31st St. in a home that was damaged during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. That call came in at 3:54 p.m. Jan. 1 with the last fire truck leaving two hours later.

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Two men were seen in the area when the fire began, but the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

On Tuesday an apartment building at the historic Eddingston Court was heavily damaged by fire. The famous conch shell fence was untouched by the fire.

An aging chain link with vines growing up through the spaces separates the property from the street. A large hole in the chain link fence could be a clue to how vagrants or others accessed the sprawling grounds.

The apartments have been empty for some time and the red brick structures are marred by graffiti and broken windows and doors. The remnants of a fishpond and fountain that were once a focal point near the entryway lay barren. The whole scene is a sad ending to what once was the fodder of post cards.

With this fire, neighbors told officials they saw two to three males leave before the blaze began. A description of the men was not given to media.

Wendell Prater, who lives nearby, stood and watched as firefighters worked.

“Certain things are synonymous with Port Arthur; Eddingston Court, Rose Hill, the Seawall. This [Eddingston Court] means something to the city,” Prater said.

So, two suspicious house fires occur in the city in the first two weeks of the year. Hopefully this doesn’t set a precedent. No injuries were reported at either fire, but the possibility for injury is there every time there is a fire.

Washburn said with the Eddingston Court fire that firefighters weren’t allowed to enter the structure because, basically, it was too dangerous as they were told the apartments had basements.

Now it’s up to the citizens of the city to step forward with any information they may have about these fires.

Anyone who can identify the individuals are asked to call the fire investigation hotline at 409-983-8715. The caller may be eligible for a cash reward if the persons are identified.

Mary Meaux is a reporter with The Port Arthur News. She can be reached at