Police Say Beauvoir Fire Was Arson - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/07/04

Police Say Beauvoir Fire Was Arson

Angry Beauvoir board members want to know why Jefferson Davis' last home nearly burned to the ground. Stan Newman spoke for the board.

"That's the indication that we have. That it was an attempted arson."

Biloxi Police agree with the board, but fire investigators will not confirm that statement. In fact, they're saying very little about the Saturday morning fire that almost destroyed the Biloxi landmark.

David LeMasters was a last minute guest at a Saturday night party celebrating Jefferson Davis' birthday. The Sons of Confederate Veterans invited LeMasters to say thanks for saving their president's historic home.

According to board member Stan Newman, "The fireman who helped put this fire out said five more minutes and it would have been a heap of rubble."

LeMasters way that fireman.  He happened to be on his way to work Saturday when he noticed black smoke darkening the early morning sky.

"So I'm thinking there is a fire somewhere," fireman David LeMasters said. "Just wasn't sure where."

LeMasters realized the smoke was coming from Beauvoir. So he pulled into the historic home's front entrance, jumped over a white picket fence, and found the fire.

"All I can liken it to is when you put lighter fluid on a charcoal grill, how you get that initial woof," he said.

Flames were eating through the front door of Jefferson Davis' home Saturday morning. LeMasters knew he had just a few seconds to find something that could douse the danger. He stumbled upon a spiggot next to the historic house, and a black garbage bag.

LeMasters rolled up the bag. He put it under the spiggot, and filled it with four to five gallons of water. At that point, he ran toward the house. He went up the stairs, threw the water toward the door, and smothered the flames.

Moments later, a security guard arrived with a fire extinguisher. Together they saved Jefferson Davis' home.

"I wasn't worried about anything else," LeMasters said, "just getting the fire out, that was the main thing."

Beauvoir's board considers LeMasters a hero, because he saved Jefferson Davis' last home.

"If his house burns, it would be a travesty, many of us couldn't stand that," said Newman.

The Biloxi Fire Department, the state fire marshal and the ATF are all investigating the Beauvoir fire. If you have information about the fire, call 1-888-648-0877. Beauvoir is still open to tourists. Jefferson Davis' home is the only area that off limits.

by Brad Kessie

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