A Columbia County resident is $7,500 richer after receiving a reward Tuesday for providing information that led to the arrest and conviction of an arsonist.
The Georgia Arson Control Program presented the award to Martinez-Columbia Fire Rescue officials to pass along to the resident, who wanted to remain anonymous.
In January 2008, fire department workers determined that a fire at 3914 Loblolly Trail had been intentionally set. Gasoline and other materials were used to ignite the blaze just behind the garage, said Capt. Daniel Gwinn, the department's arson investigator.
The fire, he said, could have blocked the family's exits if not extinguished in time.
"It is my opinion that the individual set this fire to kill the family," Gwinn said.
With the information provided by the resident, Walter Shanks was arrested and charged with first-degree arson.
After pleading guilty in February, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and five years on probation and was required to pay nearly $85,000 in restitution. He is in Scott State Prison in Hardwick, Ga.
The reward is the third given to Columbia County residents within a year. The program has awarded more than $1.5 million to those providing information about arsons since it started in 1979. It is funded by Georgia insurance carriers.
"If the information we receive leads to the arrest and conviction, then you qualify for the award, which is up to $10,000," said Randy Bishop, a consultant for the program and its Help Eliminate Arson Today state arson tip line.
Anyone with information about potential arson fires can call the tip line at (800) 282-5804.
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