Billboard fire being investigated as arson

MARSHALL, TX (KLTV) - By Bob Hallmark - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email | Twitter

GLADEWATER, TX (KLTV) - Ellis Miller has put up billboards to air out his problems with the Obama Administration, but now, vandals have tried to set one of those billboards on fire. The botched attempt at arson has some wondering if his protest is worth it.

"It could have burned my building down," said Keith Hawley.

Sunday morning, Gladewater police and firefighters were called out to a fire at the base of the billboard on Highway 80 and Phillips Street. Investigators say combustibles were set at the base of the metal pole. Flammable liquid was then set off.

The fire was quickly put out, but now it has become more than just a billboard to nearby businessman Keith Hawley at A Step Above Detail.

"Well, it really got me concerned because of my business next to it," he said. "To act like this, it's just ridiculous."

Ellis Miller has several of the controversial Obama billboards, but was deeply concerned when he heard what happened.

"I was alarmed," said Miller. "I've been hoping for the best...We do not want any violence against people or property."

Both Miller and Hawley are disappointed it would come to this.

"Some people never change their opinion," said Hawley. "Everybody's got their own opinion...[my] wife was a little concerned with my business being down here. You never know if people might come by during daytime and try something."

No one was injured, although investigators are concerned about what might have happened if it had gotten out of control. Miller does not want his message to spark violence.

"I talked with the owner of the sign itself," said Miller. "My gut reaction was if that sign is going to do that...rather than having property damage and hatred, we'll take the sign down."

"I wouldn't expect the sign company to carry that sign and I wouldn't want them to," he said.

Anyone with information on who may have been at the billboard site on Sunday is asked to call authorities immediately.

Copyright 2010 KLTV. All rights reserved.