by: Paige Hansen Updated:
RUTHERFORD COUNTY, N.C. - Rutherford County Sheriff's deputies arrested Billy James Atchley Friday on domestic-related charges and said he could also be charged with arson.
The fire department said a house fire in Ellenboro was intentionally set after a domestic dispute.
Firefighters were still working to put out flames and hotspots when Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the Ellenboro home Friday.
The Sheriff's Office said there is a connection between Atchley, the homeowner, and Atchley's ex-girlfriend but no one would go into detail about their relationships.
Crews were called to the scene Friday morning and said it was suspicious because people in the area heard what sounded like gunshots.
Firefighters had to wait 20 minutes to start fighting the fire because law enforcement had to make sure the scene was safe.
"We had to stage about a quarter-mile off scene and we could see the smoke and everything rolling up through the woods," Chief Terry Horn of the Ellenboro Fire Department said. "There's nothing we can do until they clear it for us."
The home was destroyed before firefighters had the chance to fight the flames, Horn said.
Shocked neighbors saw huge plumes of smoke and came to see the damage up close.
"When I came up to my driveway I was like, 'Oh man, it's right there, it's close to home. It's big, it's right here,'" Christin Hensley, a neighbor said.
Firefighters said no one was inside the home at the time of the fire and nobody was hurt.
The homeowner and his family did not want to comment.
Detectives don't know if gunshots were fired or if something inside the burning home made it sound like gunshots.