NEWNAN, Ga. -- Controversy is building in Newnan after a firefighter was killed in the line of duty.
People who live in the neighborhood believe a charity set up to help one of the survivors of that fire is a scam and firefighters never should have been called to the house in the first place.
The house is a total loss and, while firefighters are still investigating the cause, neighbors think more than just what started the fire needs to be investigated.
“I think everybody wants to help their fellow neighbor but do it honestly,” Katie Murphy said.
Murphy told 11Alive she donated when she saw a fundraiser for a homeowner who lost everything in a house fire March 1.
Firefighter Michael Norton died within 24 hours of fighting that fire and she wanted to honor him by helping the survivors. But she said that soon after she gave she found out the story of what happened was different from what she read.
“They were squatters,” she said. “There were three of them in the house. They did not lose their earthly possessions.”
She said the people inside the home were living there illegally. Coweta County tax records show taxes had not been paid on the property since 2010. But when she tried to question the woman who set up the fundraiser, it got nasty.
“She's lying; she's threatening people,” Murphy said.
The woman who set the fundraiser up said she didn't think she was doing anything wrong.
“I didn't know his journey before,” she said. “All I saw was that there was a man, hurting, on the side of the road … with his dog that had no help.”
She asked 11Alive not to use her name because of all the negativity the fundraiser created online.
“I just didn't expect how angry people would get and how that they would take it the wrong way,” she said.
The fire survivor, Thomas Talley, said he had an oral agreement with the woman living at the house to stay there.
“She explained to a minimal amount that she had acquired the property,” Talley said.
Commenters online said the fundraiser exaggerated his injuries from the fire to get sympathy.
Talley said he could have been hurt during the fire or from staying outdoors for days afterward.
“I'm not a doctor, I'm not a medical doctor, so I really couldn't say so much on that,” Talley said.
Coweta firefighters reported that no one was injured in the fire and police asked him to leave the property days after it happened. Murphy thinks the fundraiser should include that on her website.
“Don't tell other people that he's lost everything and that he's injured - which he's not,” she said.
Thursday afternoon the founder of the fundraiser decided to take it down.
She said that’s not because it's a scam, but because it became more trouble than it was worth.
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