Authorities say fatal fire possibly set by victim

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

BURTON, SC (WTOC) - New details are coming out about a deadly fire in Burton, S.C. Authorities say the homeowner, 41-year-old Joe Pryor, was going through a divorce and may have purposely set not only the fire in Burton which claimed his life, but a fire in Aiken, S.C., as well.

According to this police report from the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, Pryor was separating from his wife, Amy, and he wasn't doing well. In fact, neighbors say just a day before the fires he told people he was going to harm himself, but many probably didn't think this would be the way he would do it.

It all started Sunday morning in Aiken. Pryor's $500,000 home went up in flames. Pryor was nowhere to be found. That's when police learned of the divorce and that Pryor was making threats. Aiken County is calling the fire suspicious while they investigate.

Just a few hours later, there was another fire more than 100 miles away at Pryor's river house in Burton. Firefighters responded to the blaze and found Pryor dead inside the home. This fire is also being called suspicious.

Sandra Simmons lives a few doors down and saw the smoke coming from the house. "I just felt terrible because to see someone's house burn down and the man doesn't live here. I've never met him. He's from Aiken, I believe, but I had no idea he was in the house. I was thinking the only thing that could be worse was for someone to be in the house; thank goodness he doesn't live here. I had no idea he was," said Simmons.

Simmons says her heart just goes out to the family.

Since both agencies feel the fires could have been set by Pryor, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division has taken over the investigation.

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