Ex-renter accused of arson in Harding Street fire

A Sweet Home woman was arrested Tuesday, April 28, in connection with a fire that destroyed a home on Harding Street during the night of April 2.

Sweet Home Police detectives arrested Tina Marie Gibbs, 27, of 1101 Juniper St., and charged her with first-degree arson and first-degree burglary.

Police Chief Bob Bur-ford said Gibbs had been a tenant in the home at 2306 Harding St. The house had been sold to a new owner, Brad Newport, who had been forced to evict “the previous long-term tenants, including Ms. Gibbs and her family,” Burford said.

The fire was discovered at about 4 a.m. on April 2 by a police officer on patrol. Firefighters found the house fully involved.

The blaze was next door to and in close proximity to a care home for disabled adults, Burford said. Emergency personnel were prepared to evacuate residents of the care home, but that proved unnecessary as firefighters were able to knock down the flames before they spread to other structures.

The care facility sustained minor damage to an exterior wall, but the burned home was a total loss, Burford said.

The fire had spread quickly throughout the structure, which was apparently open, with walls removed for remodeling.

They found an open door, and investigators determined the fire was suspicious.

Property owner Newport said he was happy to hear about the arrest, though he said it won’t help in recovering his loss, some $35,000, which was uninsured.

“I almost guarantee I won’t recapture one cent,” he said.

He’ll be satisfied to see those responsible go to jail, he said.

“It would be hard to describe how happy I am, how proud I am. With all the evidence burned up in the fire, you have to rely on the stupidity of the arsonist and the cleverness of the officer.”

While he was removing the debris last week, Newport said, his anger kept getting to him. The pressure was so bad he almost called someone else to clean up.

Then, on Tuesday of last week, he woke up to his phone ringing and a police officer letting him know a suspect had been arrested, he said.

“It was raining outside, but it was a sunny day in my heart at that point,” he said.