Two fires ripped through Mark Seabolt’s house on Four Mile Road north of Fort Gibson late last week, burning it to the ground on Saturday. The first fire, on Thursday, burned a bedroom in the house, Seabolt confirmed. State Fire Marshal Agent Donny Howard would not confirm the location of that fire, saying it was the subject of a criminal investigation.
“The Thursday fire was intentionally set,” Howard said just now. “We have a suspect or suspects in mind.”
He would not reveal the identities of the suspects, but said the investigation was ongoing. A different agent worked the Saturday fire, which finished off the job.
Seabolt’s family was in Branson while the fires were going on, he said.
“I don’t think any of my guys could have done this,” he said today, referring to whether he thought one of the residents at his inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program could have set the fires. “It doesn’t fit in with my guys.”
The program, Faith Based Therapeutic Community Corporation, owns the land and houses convicts who are sentenced to the program through area courts. It has not been without controversy.
“The facility is moldy, out of date and you are served a ‘mystery meat’ dinner,” one former participant said in a Facebook review from January of this year. Inmates “must work 40 hours to get visits, you never see a dime of your check, must sign over power of attorney to them, they make you sign up for food stamps but do not let you use them.”
“This place is nothing but a money scam,” another former resident said in 2015. “Their toilets do not work, there are flies everywhere and there is no food. This ‘treatment center’ needs to be investigated.”
Seabolt says his program is intended to help people get past the drug and alcohol problems that landed them in trouble with the law, and that he can’t think of anyone who would want to burn down his house.
“After doing this for six years, I’m sure there is,” he said finally. “It’s been hard on us. It really has. We have been living in an apartment at the church. We’re supposed to get a mobile home up here this week until we can rebuild.”
Howard would not comment on any other details about the investigation and said no more details would be coming out until criminal charges are filed in the case. The other agent has not yet returned calls for comment.
Seabolt has not yet returned a text for comment on why he didn’t head back to Fort Gibson immediately after hearing about the Thursday fire. When he does, we will post it here.
UPDATE: Seabolt said his family was in Branson on Thursday and headed home “immediately” when they heard about the fire. They were “staying with friends” when the Saturday fire happened.
UPDATE: Agent Chris Franklin with the state fire marshal said the two fires initially appear to be related, but a solid determination will have to wait on evidence being processed. He could not say whether the Saturday fire was ignited intentionally or was a continuation of the Thursday fire.