Surveillance video obtained by investigators shows two fires were intentionally set Saturday, torching two businesses in Bel Air, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Investigators are still looking for a truck that could be connected to the alleged arson.
Around 3:30 a.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to 1200 block of Bel Air Road for the report of a building fire and found two different buildings ablaze, according to the fire marshal’s office. The metal shell structures behind the Birroteca restaurant house eight businesses, and two of them were on fire.
Two businesses sustained direct fire damage, according to the release, and senior deputy fire marshal Oliver Alkire said some other buildings sustained smoke and water damage.
The fires caused an estimated $1 million in total damage. Local fire companies were able to gain control of the flames after 40 minutes, according to the fire marshal’s office.
Both businesses that were directly damaged in the flames were car shops: Too Tuff to Buff and Dent Doctors. Too Tuff to Buff’s owner did not wish to speak about the fire when reached for comment, saying simply “I do not know why me.” Dent Doctors’ owner could not be reached as of 2:30 p.m. Monday.
Alkire said the arson determination is supported by surveillance footage taken of the scene and the location of the fires. Both businesses that sustained direct damage from the fires were in separate buildings across from each other, occupying the spots farthest away from the road.
“We have two separate and intentionally set fires and we have surveillance video showing the fires being intentionally set,” Alkire said. “We observe the fire originating to the rear of the building.”
While video footage shows the flames appearing, it does not capture anyone kindling them, Alkire said. He said neither business was a total loss, in spite of the damage, and the motive for the alleged arson is still under investigation.
The office is seeking the public’s help in finding a suspicious truck that was seen in the area. The truck is a four-door Dodge Ram 1500 Crew Cab, with a model year possibly between 2015 and 2019. It is believed to be maroon or burgundy, Alkire said.
The office encourages anyone with information about the incident, or the truck, to call its Northeast Regional Office Tipline at 410-386-3050.
Alkire said Saturday’s fires are not connected to other recent attempted and completed arsons in the county, including a house fire in Aberdeen and a car that was doused in gasoline at an Aberdeen hotel.
On May 17, two arson reports came out of Aberdeen. Within miles and hours of each other, a house on the 100 block of North Post Road was set alight and a car was doused in gasoline at the Hilton Garden Inn on Beards Hill Road. Both of those incidents are still under investigation, Alkire said Monday.
Alkire said the number of arson investigations in Harford County fluctuates, but there are generally not a great many of them; the current number of open arson investigations in the county is coincidental.