By Dixon Hayes
GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - A Gadsden man is charged with arson and attempted murder and faces other charges, after a string of arsons in the city Saturday morning.
Around 4:45 a.m. Saturday, Gadsden Firefighters answered a minor fire call, one that still looked suspicious to them. Then when firefighters answered a second fire call, they actually saw two more on the way to that one.
"The units split up at that particular time" to fight the various fires, says Gadsden Fire Chief Steve Carroll.
Before it was all over, there had been seven house fires of varying amounts of damage, some minor, some leaving heavy damage. Four of the seven homes had been occupied at the time.
Firefighters were still putting out some of the fires when police pulled over a suspect on DUI, who happened to be driving a vehicle matching a witness' description.
"Subject actually pulled out in front of the officers' car," recalls Gadsden Police Sgt. Lane Keener, a detective. "They stopped him and subsequent to their interview, arrested the subject for driving under the influence."
Police say that man was 52-year-old David Roger Shield. They gathered evidence they say links him to a fire on Spring Street, where he is now charged with one count each of attempted murder and arson. Ironically, that fire left only a small amount of damage, while some of the others were devastating.
Police say they don't know a motive. But they say Shield has a prior arson conviction and suspect a mixture of prescription drugs and alcohol may have been a factor.
Members of the Etowah County Arson Task Force, which includes members of all fire departments in the county and representatives of police, the sheriff's office and the state fire marshals, are still gathering evidence and even looking for other fires that still may not have been reported.
One woman who declined to give her name or be interviewed, but lived in one of the homes, says the fire left heavy damage to her kitchen and laundry room, and left smoke damage throughout the house. But she told us she was glad to live to tell about it.
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