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FRIES — A fire of undetermined origin, which destroyed a home on Eagle Bottom Road near Fries on Friday morning, is under investigation by local and state authorities.
The homeowner, Joseph Dale “George” Tate, 40, was not at home. He was still being held in the New River Valley Regional Jail on Friday, according to Grayson Sheriff Richard Vaughan.
Tate had been arrested on Feb. 15 on a charge of possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute.
Vaughan said on Friday that investigators haven't been able to determine whether a meth lab was involved in the fire. “We're looking at all possibilities. We don't know if it was set or what. It's been too hot to dig around.”
The Grayson County Sheriff's Department and Virginia State Police are investigating the cause of the fire. They expected to be able to search the site last Saturday.
Neighbors saw flames coming from the home about 11 a.m. on Friday.
The Fries and Galax volunteer fire departments battled the blaze for more than an hour before bringing it under control.
On Feb. 15, Grayson Deputy Eric Testerman conducted a traffic stop on Petty Road in Galax. A search of the vehicle revealed 3.5 grams of methamphetamine, according to a sheriff's department press release.
The driver of the vehicle was Michael Lee Moss, 35, of 1027 West Stuart Drive in Galax. Moss had been arrested the week before in Independence for possession of meth with intent to distribute and his vehicle was seized.
This time, Moss was operating a 1994 Chevrolet Lumina owned by a passenger in the vehicle — “George” Tate.
Both Moss and Tate were arrested and charged with possession of meth with intent to distribute. Moss is being held without bond and Tate is being held on a $2,500 secured bond.
The Lumina was seized. Vaughan said officers “are going to make it hard on those who are distributing illegal drugs by seizing their assets, which will make it more difficult for them to find transportation when they get out of jail.”