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Fire marshal: 'Outside heat source' likely cause of wildfire

September 13, 2010|By DON AINES
  • The structural remains of a vacant house smolder Sunday, the morning after a wildfire burned 40 acres of land in the Indian Springs area.
Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer

INDIAN SPRINGS -- A weekend fire that burned about 40 acres of a former orchard and destroyed two vacant houses and several outbuildings was either accidentally or intentionally set, Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst said Monday morning.

"An outside heat source had to have been brought into the house," Ernst said of the fire off Park Head Road southeast of Hancock. "We can't rule out accidental or intentional."

The house where the fire started had no electrical service, Ernst said. The property is owned by Fairview Orchards Landbesitz Inc. and is leased by a hunt club, Ernst said.

While the lane to the property had a locked entrance, Ernst said it would not be difficult for trespassers to gain entry on an ATV or on foot. The house where the fire started has had evidence in the past of trespassers getting inside and leaving behind trash, he said.

The house had been boarded up recently after boards were pulled down to gain entrance, Ernst said.

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The fire was called in at 5:53 p.m. Saturday and took about 90 minutes to bring under control. Firefighters were on the scene until about 1:30 a.m. Sunday, Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mike Reid said. More than a dozen fire companies and special units from Maryland, West Virginia and the Maryland Department of Forestry fought the fire, according to a press release from Ernst.

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