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Two more arsons reported in Martinsburg

April 26, 2010|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Oatesdale Park and a Central Avenue residence in Martinsburg were added over the weekend to a growing list of places in the city where fires have been deliberately set this year.

No one was injured in the weekend arsons, which were discovered Saturday after apparently self-extinguishing, according to Martinsburg Fire Department Lt. Greg Hoover. They increase the number of deliberately set fires in the city to 13 this year.

A JLG scissors aerial lift at Oatesdale Park, the home of Martinsburg Little League at 150 Tavern Road, was targeted late Friday night or early Saturday, said Hoover, the department's chief fire investigator.

Someone attempted to damage the machine by igniting a rag placed in the gas tank, Hoover said.

At 910 Central Ave., combustibles were placed in a dryer in the home and ignited, causing an estimated $10,000 in smoke damage, Hoover said.

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The home was vacant when the fire happened early Saturday, but wasn't reported until about 3 p.m., Hoover said. The arsonist(s) broke into the home, Hoover said.

The fire at the park was reported about 10:30 a.m., Hoover said.

Mike Casteel, information officer for Martinsburg Little League, said the organization is trying to determine how much damage was done to the aerial lift, which has since been moved to a more secure location.

The machine was donated to the organization earlier this year by JLG, Casteel said. It was operational after the fire was discovered, but Casteel said there is concern that some material used in the arson might have entered the gas tank.

"We're hoping it's cosmetic damage," Casteel said.

The machine is used to change field lights and perform other maintenance work at the Little League complex, Casteel said.

Prior to the arson, someone stole a propane tank from the machine the first night it was at the park, Casteel said.

Casteel said the organization has discussed increasing security; officials believe the arson will accelerate efforts to protect the park facilities.

The city's string of arsons began in early January. Most of the arsons caused minimal damage and occurred in the downtown area.

No arrests have been made.

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