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Arson suspected in Clear Spring fire

August 10, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION
  • Maryland State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst digs through debris July 30 at the scene of a fire the previous day on Cumberland Street in Clear Spring.
File photo,

CLEAR SPRING -- Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst on Monday night told the Clear Spring Town Council he believes the July 29 fire that spread through three houses in town was arson.

Ernst told council members and Mayor Paul D. Hose Jr. during their monthly meeting that he has ruled out other possible causes for the fire that severely damaged the buildings at 111, 113 and 115 Cumberland St.

He said the fire started in 113 Cumberland St., which was vacant.

Ernst told council members he observed where some electrical arcing occurred at the scene, but an electrical engineer examined the area and ruled out an electrical fire.

There also was no lightning the night of the fire, Ernst said.

As part of his investigation, he "found a pattern that caused a lot of concern," Ernst said.

That pattern was found in the area of a bathroom and closet, and authorities brought in a K-9 unit that is used to detect ignitable liquids, Ernst said. The K-9 unit alerted to an area near the bathroom and closet, and samples were taken from the area and sent to a state police lab, he said.

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The results of tests to determine what type of ignitable liquid might have been used in the fire were not yet available, Ernst said Monday.

Ernst said there are five people of interest in his investigation and he has interviewed three of them.

"You're going to see me a lot more in town in the evenings," Ernst told council members.

The absence of firewalls between the houses, which were built in the 19th century, allowed the flames to travel from building to building, Ernst has said.

The fire also caused minor damage to 117 Cumberland St., which was turned back over to its owner, officials said.

The total financial loss from the fire was estimated at $500,000, officials said.

More than 100 firefighters from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia responded to the blaze.

Reading from a prepared statement about the "terrible fire," Hose on Monday thanked dozens of individuals, agencies and towns that helped in the battle against the fire.

Hose said the Mundey family has decided they will demolish the building at 115 Cumberland St., and the property owner for 111-113 Cumberland St. has applied for a demolition permit.

The family at 117 Cumberland St. has been relocated for about a month until repairs are made, Hose said.

Editor's note: This story was edited Aug. 11 to correct the name of the Mundey family in the next-to-last paragraph.

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