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Officials asking for public's help with arson cases

July 16, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

State fire investigators are hoping the public can help solve arsons that destroyed a home on Needy's Lane and a warehouse complex on Security Road last week.

A fire at an abandoned home on Needy's Lane Tuesday destroyed the already deteriorating building and a blaze Saturday gutted the warehouse that used to house Hagerstown Paint and Glass Co. at 1123 Security Road, fire marshal Allen Gosnell said.

Two set fires in the same neighborhood in one week is unusual and investigators are looking for a link between them, he said.

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Both fires are being considered arson because the electricity to each was shut off and no one had a valid reason to be there, he said.

The Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal has received several tips about the fires, said Gosnell. Anyone who may have seen or talked to someone in the area of the fires is asked to call the fire marshal's office at 301-791-4758, he said.

No details are too minor, Gosnell said.

"People shouldn't take anything for granted. If they heard a squeal - that could have been the getaway car," he said.

A team of four investigators has been assigned to follow up on leads, Gosnell said.

"Tell us everything and let us determine what's important," he said.

Gosnell wouldn't say how the fires were set or if any accelerant was used.

Fire marshal Ryan Chapman was at the Security Road fire scene Monday with his dog, Canyon, trying to detect accelerants.

Heavy rainfall Saturday and the water used to fight the fire may have diluted any accelerants but if they're there, Canyon should still be able to smell them, Gosnell said.

Gosnell said many of the tips have been about youth in the area.

"The leads are pointing to kids who party at that creek," he said.

Antietam Creek flows near the Security Road warehouse and juveniles frequently trespass in the area, according to the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

A neighbor said she has heard the sounds of breaking glass from inside the warehouse buildings.

Saturday's fire caused $100,000 in damages to the warehouse complex, Gosnell said. More than 75 area firefighters were needed to fight the blaze. When firefighters arrived, flames and heavy smoke were coming from the building's roof.

On Sunday, firefighters were called to the warehouse to douse a number of rekindles.

The building is currently owned by the L.G. Mathias family trust, said Steve Palkovitz, Hagerstown Paint and Glass chairman. The warehouse had been used lately for storage by a local roofing company.

Determining who is responsible for the arsons is like assembling a puzzle, Gosnell said.

"We follow up on leads and talk to everybody, and eventually the pieces come together," he said.

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