Arson charges for suspect in fires at homes owned by SC gov

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A 21-year-old man has been charged with intentionally setting a fire that damaged two Columbia rental properties owned by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Frank John Wilberding was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of arson, according to Columbia police. Wilberding was listed Wednesday as an inmate in the Richland County jail, and it wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney.

Authorities said Wilberding set a fire about 6 a.m. Tuesday on the porch of one home. The fire spread to an adjacent property, causing about $450,000 in damage and displacing at least a dozen residents.

During a Tuesday news conference, Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said a separate debris fire at another house burned itself out before spreading to the second property. In all, Jenkins said 48 firefighters put out the flames in about an hour.

Police Chief Skip Holbrook said officers found Wilberding shortly after releasing surveillance images of a possible suspect. Holbrook said authorities don't think the fires were set because the governor owns the properties.

McMaster and his wife own 20 rental homes around Columbia and rent many to students at the University of South Carolina. Tax records show the couple earns about $300,000 a year from the rentals, according to the Post and Courier .


Meg Kinnard can be reached at

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