Mosses mayor targeted again, loses home to arson
LOWNDES CO., AL (WSFA) - An arson investigation is underway in the town of Mosses after the mayor's home went up in flames.
Walter Hill, who has been the mayor of Mosses for 14 years, was inside his house when it caught fire but he managed to escape.
On Friday night, Hill threw a Halloween party at the town hall and then stopped by a party in White Hall before returning to his house on Mason Drive around 11:45 p.m. Since his aunt's funeral was the next morning, he worked on a tribute DVD for her service for a few minutes before getting into bed around midnight.
"When I got in the bed about less than five minutes I heard something go boom like an explosion," he said.
It was a windy night and Hill thought a tree branch might have snapped and hit the ground outside but when he looked at his bedroom window, the space above the blinds was glowing orange. He rushed to the living room and saw black smoke coming from the front porch.
"The fire was so intense and the flames were so engulfed, they were just whirling. I had to catch myself and wonder if it was a dream and I realized it wasn't a dream. I knew at that point, I needed to do something so my immediate action was to jump from the door of the house clean out," Hill explained.
The heat from the rapidly spreading flames burned the top of his head.
Once outside, he turned on the hose and tried to put the fire out. His brothers, who live around him, rushed to help him and called 911. Three vehicles were parked around the home but the keys were inside. Hill could not get to them to move the vehicles out of the way.
In the beginning, Hill says the fire was concentrated on the outside of the house but the wind helped the flames spread to the roof and then to the rest of the home that had been in his family for generations. By the time fire crews got there, the structure was completely gone.
"Whoever did this, whatever they used to do this, it was so intense that water wouldn't even put the flames out. I lost everything, everything that meant something to my family- the pictures, videos, mementos," Hill said. "I thank God that I got out with my life and I just want to see whoever is responsible for this brought to justice. This should never have happened. None of this should ever have happened."
On Monday, Hill was still sifting through the rubble and trying to find photo albums. Between charred pages, he was trying to salvage pictures of loved ones, including photographs of his mother and his teenage daughter's childhood.
Hill, a former Lowndes County educator and director of Emergency Management, is no stranger to being targeted.
In 2012, four city and county cars were set on fire outside of his home. Officials said the cars were burned in resistance to the newly restored police force. No one was arrested in the case, according to the mayor.
Several years earlier in 2008, someone painted racial slurs on Hill's county-owned Trailblazer used for the Emergency Management Office.
When asked why someone would want to burn his house down, Hill said he believes it could be retaliation for the city's efforts to assist a local business. Police patrols were increased around the Mosses Meat Market on Main Street after the store's owner turned to officials for help with loitering and possible drug activity around the business, he said.
"There are assumptions that those efforts made some people upset," he added.
Hill says he has faith that local and state authorities can sort out the motive and uncover who was responsible for leaving him homeless.
Investigators with the State Fire Marshal's Office have determined that the fire was intentionally set. No other details were released in the ongoing investigation.
"I don't want anyone else in this community to have to go through what I've had to go through, trying to do my public service and do the best job I can to help in this community, in this county," the mayor said. "With the EMA, I was known to help people who got burned out of their homes. Now, I'm burned out of mine. It's hard just looking at this. I lived in this house for over 22 years and it's gone. I don't have anything but ashes now."
Members of the community have bought him clothes and offered up their cars for him to use until he gets back on his feet. In the meantime, Hill is staying with family members.
Anyone with information on the arson is asked to contact the Alabama Arson Hotline at 1-800-654-0775 or the website at