Fires ruled arson

February 09, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL and MARLO BARNHART

HANCOCK - Fires late Monday and early Tuesday that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to four vacant buildings near Hancock were deliberately set, the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office said.

The fires, in four unoccupied houses on Fairview Orchard Growers Inc. property on Willow Road and Roundtop Road, kept firefighters from three states busy shifting equipment and personnel from house to house.

Firefighters responded to reports, starting Monday at 11:37 p.m., of fires that were all within one-half mile of each other on Willow and Roundtop roads, the fire marshal's office said in a prepared release.


Damage to the homes, which were part of a remodeling program, was estimated at $500,000, according to the release.

"Investigators found the area of fire origin to be near the front door of the four homes and each had been deliberately and individually ignited," the release said.

Seven other homes on the orchard property are being remodeled and were not affected by the fires, the release said.

Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor said no one had been charged in connection with the fires as of Tuesday evening.

When firefighters arrived at the first call late Monday on Willow Road near the Woodmont Rod and Gun Club, they found the building fully engulfed in flames.

"We let it go. It was pretty much down to the foundation," Hancock Volunteer Fire Co. Capt. Greg Yost said.

Tuesday, at 12:40 a.m., the second call came in for another blaze on the same road, while responders were "still on the first fire," Yost said.

Yost said firefighters could see the third fire, reported at 2:15 a.m., across the field from where they were fighting the second blaze.

As the fire calls came in, firefighters were called in from Morgan County, W.Va., Orleans and Flintstone, in Allegany County, Md., Needmore, Pa., and McConnellsburg, Pa. Additional equipment and personnel came from Maugansville, Clear Spring, Williamsport and Halfway, Yost said.

The Washington County air and rehab units also were dispatched to the fires to aid the firefighters in their efforts. No serious injuries were reported.

Fire marshals ask that anyone with information on the incidents call the Maryland Arson Hotline at 800-492-7529. A reward was being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist or arsonists, according to fire marshals.

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