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Arson studied as cause of blaze

May 31, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A fire that totaled a Shepherd Grade Road home Sunday night is being investigated as a possible arson, officials said.

Owner Joe Wimer, an antique dealer, was not home at the time of the fire. Neighbors said he was out for dinner when the blaze broke out.

"When we got here, a couple of people were starting to run across the field and said, 'Look at the fire,'" said Claire Redden, a neighbor of Wimer's. "The floor was fully engulfed by that time. Then the electrical wires started popping and banging. They were flying out."

Neighbors said gasoline cans were found at the rear of the home and the back door was wide open.

"There were four or five gas cans back there, but they've been there for years," said Deputy R.J. Jenkins of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. "They've been there since the first time I ever came here."

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But Jenkins and Shepherdstown Police Chief Cecil Arnold confirmed the fire is being investigated as a possible arson.

"It's suspected to be an arson, but at this time we really can't say for sure one way or the other until it's investigated," Jenkins said.

Arnold said investigators look at burns on the floor and other evidence before determining the cause.

The fire was reported at 7:47 p.m. when a motorist saw the flames, stopped her car and ran to a nearby home.

Neighbor Anne Small, also of Shepherd Grade Road, ran to Wimer's other home, adjacent to the one that was burning, and banged on the door to see if anyone was there.

"I know they have a lot of animals and I was concerned there were animals in there," Small said.

The house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.

"Fire and smoke were rolling out the windows," Arnold said.

Fire departments from West Virginia and Maryland had the blaze under control by 8:23 p.m., but were still on the scene late Sunday.

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