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Arson suspect out on bond
0906 Matthew Collett
Matthew Collett

A former firefighter was arrested Tuesday for intentionally setting fire to a house in Effingham County last month.

Matthew Collett, 33, of Anderson, S.C., was charged with burglary and first-degree arson.

Collett bonded out of Effingham County Jail on Thursday, according to ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor. He was given a $28,000 bond, requiring him to be transferred immediately to an alcohol and drug treatment center in South Carolina.

Sheriff’s office deputies responded to a domestic dispute call on Aug. 27 at Collett’s stepfather’s house on Ogeechee River Drive. When they arrived, they saw a “fully involved” house fire nearby on Sandhill Road, Ehsanipoor said.

The stepfather told deputies Collett had angrily left the Ogeechee River Drive house following a “physical altercation” between the two men. Moments later, the neighboring house was on fire.

The man said Collett “had a history of violent behavior and setting fires,” according to Ehsanipoor. “The fire started right after he left the (stepfather’s) residence.”

That violent behavior cost Collett his volunteer firefighting position with Savannah’s Southside Fire Department in the late 1990s. He was fired after being arrested and convicted of starting multiple fires in Chatham County in 1998.

The Aug. 27 fire caused “extensive damage” to the house in the 1600 block of Sandhill Road, Ehsanipoor said. No one was living there.

The ECSO and State Fire Marshal’s Office investigated and determined the fire was intentionally set, they believe from an “ignitable liquid” being used, Ehsanipoor said.

Collett was considered a person of interest right away. Along with the lead investigators received from his stepfather, Collett raised other suspicions that night.

A man, later identified as Collett, “drove to a location in Chatham County and requested EMS for smoke inhalation,” Ehsanipoor said.

Collett had no connection to the Effingham County house he is accused of burning. Indications are it was simply a crime of opportunity.

“We think he randomly did it,” Ehsanipoor said.

The case remains under investigation by the ECSO’s Criminal Investigations Division.