Two men confess to setting blaze after Richmond home goes up in flames

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RICHMOND, Mo. -- Neighbors in one Ray County city can’t believe it.

A Thanksgiving week fire is getting attention after two men confessed to setting the blaze, torching their own home.

People living in Richmond say it all began with a loud explosion. Police say the house fire on Hill Avenue was intentionally set, and two of the home's residents have confessed to starting it.

Richmond sits along Highway 210, about an hour outside downtown Kansas City.

“The gasline just blew!”

One Richmond Police officer can be heard screaming on dashcam video, in a moment where first responders risked their lives.

“We came out and the house was on fire,” Bryan Calvert, a neighbor, told FOX 4 News.

“It just went 'poof’,” Calvert added. “All of a sudden, it just started turning blackish.”

Calvert remembered the evening of November 23rd, when he heard an explosion outside his home. Police dashcam video shows the home across the street erupting in flames, and police and firefighters rushing to keep people safe.

But police say it wasn't an accident. Richmond Police arrested two of the three people living in that house, Lonel Hawkins and Joseph Newsome. Police say it didn't take long before the two confessed to setting the fire. Investigators found seven places in the house where crude fires had been started.

“None of them have a criminal history,” Richmond Police Detective Matt Peterson said.

Peterson was on Hill Street the night of the Thanksgiving eve fire, and says Hawkins and Newsome complained their home was unsanitary, so they burned it.

“They said their home environment was pretty disgusting, infested with bugs. Sewer problems were making them sick. This was their out. Burn the house down to get some insurance money,” Det. Hawkins said.

Det. Peterson says Hawkins and Newsome wanted to use the money to buy a better home. Police confirm Hawkins and Newsome evacuated five dogs from the structure they planned to burn. One dog was locked in a shed behind the house, but was unharmed in the fire.

Police say they almost feel sorry for Newsome and Hawkins. Det. Peterson told FOX 4 News he's aware those two men have been down on their luck financially lately, and even though arson is illegal, Newsome and Hawkins were desperate for money.

“We don't think they're bad people. They're just going through a tough time. This was their way to get out of that tough time,” Det. Peterson said.

But instead, it left them with a burned home, and in a lot of trouble.

Hawkins and Newsome are being held in the Ray County Detention Center. They're both charged with second degree arson, a felony. So far, there is no date for their first court appearance.