2 arrested in death of Waycross firefighter

50-year-old died in arson fire early Sunday, investigators say

(Waycross Fire Department photo)

WAYCROSS, Ga. – The Waycross Police Department on Tuesday announced two arrests in Sunday morning's arson fire that claimed the life of Lt. Jeff Little of the Waycross Fire Department.

Investigators said a tip from the arson hotline allowed them to develop information leading to the arrests of 17-year-old Zachery Thompson and 23-year-old Ronnie Cranford, both of Waycross.

"We, like the entire community, were devastated by the senseless loss of Lt. Little and were hoping for a resolution in the case," Waycross Police Chief Tony Tanner said in a news release. "The assistance given by the State Fire Marshal's Office and the (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) was invaluable. They really went beyond the norm to get this case solved, offering and delivering all the special skills their agencies are famous for. Our Detective Section did a tremendous job and worked extremely well with the other agencies to get the case resolved."

Ware County Sheriffs Office booking photos of Zachery Thompson and Ronnie Cranford
Ware County Sheriffs Office booking photos of Zachery Thompson and Ronnie Cranford

The two suspects were booked into the Ware County jail on charges of murder and arson.

Little (pictured), 50, was a 12-year veteran of the Fire Department. He died early Sunday morning after getting trapped in a burning vacant home.

Under Georgia law, Little's death is being investigated as a homicide because the fire was the result of arson, investigators said.

"This has been a tragic loss for the Waycross Fire Department and community," said ATF Special Agent in Charge Christopher Shaefer. "ATF will continue to dedicate federal resources in partnership with local fire and law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of eradicating violent crime which threatens our citizens and those who risk their lives serving our communities."

A viewing for Little is being held from 5-9 p.m. Tuesday at Central Baptist Church, located at 201 Ava Street in Waycross.

Little's memorial service is set for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the church. Little will be buried in private ceremony in Alabama on Friday.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Jeremy Norris Scholarship Fund, c/o James M. Dye Foundation, 2001 South Georgia Parkway, Waycross, GA 31503.