STPSO: Man arrested for Slidell apartment blaze, investigated fo - FOX 8, WVUE,, weather, app, news, saints

STPSO: Man arrested for Slidell apartment blaze, investigated for 2013 fire

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It was a fire that was hard to accept and authorities are convinced it was deliberately set. 

"It's a fire chief's worst nightmare," said Chris Kaufmann, Chief of St. Tammany Fire Protection District 1. " I listened  to the dispatch come out and we had 12 people trapped."

David Rutledge, 58, is behind bars charged with aggravated arson and attempted murder after allegedly setting fire to the Slidell apartment complex were he lived. 

"We will say that the fire was of an incendiary nature," said Louisiana Fire Marshall Butch Browning. "We do believe there were materials brought in to accelerate this fire and all those things." 

But the Fire Marshall doesn't believe a bomb was involved. On of his staffers, Deputy Chris Vergis was the first on the scene after spotting the fire while heading home from working detail at a football game. 

"He was returning back into town, he noticed the fire," Browning said. "He stopped and immediately notified Fire District 1 and began participating and alerting people by using the siren on his unit and well as knocking on doors. He assisted in the rescue of several people."

The ATF brought in a national response team to investigate, but authorities aren't clear on a motive. 

"We found no evidence of any type of problem, anything type of conflict with another individual in the apartment," said St. Tammany Parish Sheriff Jack Strain. "Those things that would help us understand why a nearly 60-year-old person would commit such a crime, why someone of age endanger so many innocent citizens."

But Rutledge is no stranger to the Sheriff's Office. In 2013 he was a suspect in another suspicious fire, but was never charged. 

Strain added, "it is a reality that our agencies worked the case and suspected that individual and investigated it vigorously but were unable to establish evidence now all of that is being looked at again. We will leave no stone unturned." 

In the meantime, the sheriff is sending out a big thank you to those who stepped in to save lives. 

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