UPDATE: Man Facing Attempted Murder and Arson Charges After Austin House Fire

March 09, 2018 10:46 AM

(ABC 6 News) - UPDATE:  An Austin man is facing charges of attempted murder and arson following a Wednesday morning house fire.

According to court documents, police and fire crews were dispatched to a house fire on the 300 block of 11th Avenue SW around 9:55 Wednesday morning.


When they arrived they found one person outside and two people on the roof.

During questioning one of the three said they had an altercation with Darrell Wigham, who was staying at the house, earlier in the evening and that Wigham had grabbed a can of paint thinner and started throwing it on the door that led to the upstairs sleeping area, and a trail to the fireplace.

The victim said he poured water on the paint thinner and the embers in the fireplace.   

Wigham then allegedly left the residence and the victim fell asleep.

The victim said he woke up around 2 a.m. when Wigham had returned to the residence, fell back asleep and woke up to the house on fire.

One of the other victims said she woke up around 4 or 5 a.m. to what she described as a "chemical odor" and that she asked Wigham if he was "burning the house down" to which he said, "call me when the house actually burns down."

The other victim confirmed there was a confrontation over the paint thinner incident and that Wigham said something like, "You all just think I'm playing.  You all just think I ain't going to do s--- about this.  You just watch when this f------ house burns down."

After the confrontation, the two victims went back to bed and awoke to the house on fire.  They were unable to get to the main floor because of the fire on the stairs. Instead, they escaped through a window on to the roof where fire crews were able to rescue them.

Documents state the Fire Marshall says the fire was started with the use of an accelerant in several areas of the house and specifically identified an area in front of the door leading to the upstairs and that he believed the fire had been burning for up to an hour before it was reported.

During questioning at the scene Wigham told officers he was being charged with auto theft involving a vehicle owned by one of the residents at the home. 

He told detectives that he was meeting with an agent with the Department of Corrections at the time of the fire then said he believed he was being "set-up" and discontinued the interview.

The detective checked with the Department of Corrections who verified Wigham had an appointment scheduled for 8:30 a.m. but that he did not show up until 10 a.m.

The agent also said Wigham was on pretrial release check-ins with Mower County Correctional Services and that Wigham had called his agent at 10:45 and said he was in Albert Lea.

Wigham is possibly facing 3 felony counts of Attempted 1st-Degree Murder- Premeditated, 3 felony counts of Attempted 1st-Degree Murder With Intent While Committing a Felony and 1 felony charge of 1st-Degree Arson.


Previous stories:

A Wednesday morning fire that destroyed an Austin house has been deemed as suspicious.

According to the Austin Fire Department Chief, Jim McCoy, the State Fire Marshall's Office has found evidence that the fire was intentionally started.

Law enforcement has not identified any possible suspects or confirmed that any arrests have been made.


A midday fire on Wednesday destroyed an Austin home and the state fire marshal is investigating what happened.

"We had large volumes of fire showing out of all the windows on the second floor at that time" Austin Fire Chief Jim McCoy said.

"And as you can see behind me” Brian Pirmantgen added, “That’s what's left of it after a short time.”

It's a quiet residential neighborhood the 300 block of eleventh avenue southwest.

But Wednesday morning that quiet was shattered.

“Report of a house fire with people on the roof" fire chief Jim McCoy said.

The call came in just before ten o’clock Wednesday morning, and firefighters were on the scene within minutes.

“The police officers and a neighbor down the street were assisting two tenants off the roof" Chief Jim McCoy explained.

They’d apparently come out a dormer window.

"We had large volumes of smoke showing. We did make an exterior attack on the back side of the house. We had fire located there" Chief Jim McCoy said.

“It started with just a little smoke coming out of the side window and a top vent," said Brian Pirmantgen, who watched and video recorded the fire from his home across the street

"Within about one minute it just went to an inferno.”

"We tried to make entry into the house, get the fire knocked down, it was too dangerous, we pulled everybody out for our safety” Fire Chief Jim McCoy said.

“I have a whole new respect for fire,” Brian Pirmantgen told us. “It can spread very quickly.”

It’s believed there were three people in the rental house at the time.

There were no reports of injuries.


Dan Conradt

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