Cherokee County Sheriff Steve Mueller said Roger Dale Lowe Jr., 35, of Gaffney was staying at the Cherokee Avenue boarding house when he went outside in the woods to cook methamphetamine on March 9. When the drugs hardened in a plastic cup, Lowe went inside the house to reheat the narcotics using a propane burner. The cup and drugs fell to the floor, causing a massive fire that quickly destroyed the house, Mueller said.
Thirty-three residents survived the fire. No one was injured.
“By the grace of God and the acts of firefighters, people survived a tremendously fast fire that had the help of flammable liquid,” said Fire Chief Nathan Ellis. “The fire grew and spread in seconds. … We’re lucky we’re not looking at a multi-fatality fire.”
Lowe readily admitted to accidentally starting the fire when questioned by detectives Tim Clark and Jason Burgess on Tuesday. Clark entered a Fifth Street home where Lowe had been staying since the fire and noticed materials commonly used to make methamphetamine.
Mueller said Lowe admitted to having a drug addiction and was apologetic for starting the fire. He told police that he attempted to extinguish the fire, which the fire investigation team was able to corroborate.
Lowe was charged Tuesday with manufacturing methamphetamine and was served with a second charge of making narcotics relating to the March 9 fire.
Mueller said after consulting with the 7th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, authorities won’t charge Lowe with arson since the fire wasn’t maliciously set.
Ellis said authorities relied on statements from those who lived there to determine what happened just before the fire.
“Everybody had bits of information and when strung together, we were able to determine what happened,” he said.
Lowe faces up to 15 years on each count of manufacturing methamphetamine. He has no other prior criminal history with the exception of a few misdemeanors, the sheriff said. Lowe remains at the Cherokee County Detention Center where he is awaiting a bond hearing.