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SAVANNAH, GA:  A Chatham County man has admitted deliberately setting the May 3, 2020, blaze that extensively burned the city of Savannah’s Code Enforcement Office.

Stephen Charles Setter, 19, of Savannah, pled guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of Arson, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The charge carries a minimum possible sentence of five years in prison, up to 20 years, along with substantial financial penalties, and up to three years of supervised release after completion of any prison term.

There is no parole in the federal system.

“Deliberately set fires are a clear danger to the community, and to the firefighters who protect it,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Considering the massive damage to the Code Enforcement building, it’s fortunate that no one was harmed by this destructive act.”

As described in court documents and testimony, Setter admitted starting the fire at the Code Enforcement Office at 1700 Drayton Street in downtown Savannah shortly after 3 a.m. on May 3, 2020. Setter started the fire that quickly spread into the attic and roof of the building, causing damage estimated at nearly $1 million.

Setter also told investigators that he activated a fire alarm at the Landings marina that same night, requiring the Chatham County Fire Department to respond, and while the station was unoccupied he then stole a fire department radio so he could listen to fire department communications. 

Setter will remain in custody until sentencing at a later date.

“As part of our mission, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will continue to work with our state and local counterparts to investigate the crime of arson,” said Lenwood S. Reeves, Resident Agent in Charge of the Savannah Field Office of the ATF. “Arson is a crime of violence that not only endangers the general public but our first responders and firefighters. This case is another example of how teamwork between agencies brought an arsonist to justice.”  

“We are pleased with the positive result of the joint investigation between Savannah Fire and the ATF,” said Fred Anderson, Savannah Fire Department Chief Fire Investigator. “It is good to know that this individual is no longer on the streets.”

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Savannah Fire Department Arson Unit, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania D. Groover.

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