AP, SunHerald.com (MI), Jun. 7
BILOXI, Miss. — Officials say an alert Biloxi firefighter likely saved historic Beauvoir, the last home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, from extensive damage due to what appeared to have been a deliberately set fire.
Fire officials said they were investigating the “suspicious” Saturday blaze which was limited to the area of the front doors of the 160-year-old tourist attraction along coastal U.S. 90.
Battalion Chief Kerry Borden said investigators should know more early this week. He would not discuss the preliminary findings.
Beauvoir officials believe the fire was deliberate.
“Somebody attempted to burn the house,” said Patrick Hotard, executive director of the historic home and library.
Hotard said an off-duty firefighter saw smoke and “jumped the fence and extinguished the fire.”
The firefighter, David Lemasters, doused the fire using a water-filled trash bag. Beauvoir’s security guard had not seen the flames. The home’s large front doors were charred and several glass panels in the doors appear ruined.
Hotard said damage to the front porch was limited by door mats that apparently kept the fire from burning planks, which had recently undergone $120,000 in repairs.
“The doors seem to be in pretty bad shape,” Hotard said. “The deck is in good shape.”
Beauvoir is owned by the United Sons of Confederate Veterans.
No one has claimed responsibility for the fire. Hotard said he did not know whether it was timed to spoil a Saturday party to celebrate Jefferson Davis’ birthday. The party went on as scheduled.
Though the library, grounds and visitor’s center remain open for tours, the home will be closed until an investigation and repairs are complete, officials said.