LIVE OAK — A house fire Sunday morning led to a Live Oak man charged with arson.

According to the Live Oak Police Department, 54-year-old Ruben Mejia set a bale of pine straw on fire that sparked a fire around 5 a.m. Sunday at a house on Scriven Avenue NW that had four residents inside.

When officers arrived to the fire, all the residents including three that had been outside when the incident occurred were outside the house with one attempting to pour a bucket of water on the fire as smoke billowed out the front door of the house, an LOPD report states.

A bale of pine straw had multiple burn areas on it, the report states, as if someone had tried to set it on fire several times. The report adds that the Live Oak Fire Department determined the fire started with the bale.

According to the report, another officer remembered seeing the suspect in the area 10-12 minutes earlier with a bale of pine straw near the rear passenger side tire of a silver SUV.

The report states that one of the residents at the house had a prior relationship with the suspect and another resident saw the vehicle drive by the house prior to the fire.

The suspect and another person at his residence told authorities that they had been asleep and couldn’t explain why the vehicle’s exhaust pipe and hood of the vehicle were hot.

During questioning, the other person finally admitted to driving the suspect to the vicinity of the house and that the suspect had taken a lighter with him as well as the pine straw bale and then circled the area waiting to pick the suspect up, the report states.

The suspect, when told the other person had told authorities what happened, admitted to setting the bale on fire but claimed another man helped him with the plan.

Mejia was charged with first degree arson of an occupied dwelling.

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