A St. John's man has no doubt someone tried to burn down his house on Saturday.

"Yes, it was intentionally set," Billy Earle told CBC News at the scene of the alleged arson in downtown St. John's.

It was Earle who called the fire department around 10 a.m after discovering the small fire in a narrow alley along the side of his Flower Hill home.

"I seen a cloud of black smoke coming from the back of my house ... the area of the backside somewhere," said Earle. "I couldn't figure it out so I ran in and checked my (security) cameras. I couldn't see anything in the front so I beat it downstairs and when I ran out I heard banging and crackling and I looked in the laneway here and the side of my house was all aflame."

billy earle fire

This is the extent of fire damage caused to Billy Earle's home in downtown St. John's on Saturday morning. (CBC)

Damage was confined to a small section of siding mainly due to the quick response of firefighters. Several old scorched car mats could also be seen rolled up next to the house.

Asked why someone would target him, Earle said it might have something to do with his job as a private investigator. Police have yet to confirm arson in the case, but said they are continuing to investigate.

Earle, meanwhile, hopes the culprits can be identified on his security cameras.

Earle has been in the news before, mainly for speaking out about how he and his brother, Shane, were abused by Christian brothers at the infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage in the 1970s.

In October 2011, Earle went public to convince his son, Jason, to turn himself in after escaping police custody during a prisoner transfer. At the time, Earle said his son was struggling with a mental illness, but had been taken off his medication by a prison psychiatrist.

The younger Earle was caught a week later by police during a controlled traffic stop on the Manuels Access Road.