Separated by less than eight hours and mere miles, two suspected arsons — one attempted, the other completed — were reported Sunday in Aberdeen.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating a supposed arson at a home on the 100 block of North Post Road, along with an attempted arson two miles down the road of a vehicle in the parking lot of the Hilton Garden Inn on Beards Hill Road, the office reported. At this time, investigators have no reason to believe the two incidents are connected, Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said.
Two potential arsons in the same place within a short time are uncommon, Alkire said, but not unprecedented.
"It just happened to be that we had two incendiary investigations at the same time,” he said. “We have no reason to believe that they were connected.”
First-responders were made aware of the house fire minutes after midnight Sunday. The two-story home was vacant, according to the office, and nobody was hurt in the blaze. The fire caused an estimated $50,000 worth of damage and took 10 minutes to control. About 40 firefighters responded. The house is not a total loss, Alkire said.
Alkire said the fire started on the front porch and was mostly contained there, but the home’s interior still suffered some water, fire and smoke damage. He credited the Aberdeen Fire Department with minimizing the destruction. Alkire is also a K9 handler, and his dog Kachina detected accelerant on the porch. When he asks her to show him where, she puts her nose on the spot where fire marshals should be collecting evidence, he explained.
Currently, Alkire said, there are no suspects. Samples taken from the porch will go to a lab for analysis, he said, before they can be identified. The motive for the incident is also unclear.
The home did not have power, Alkire said, and appeared to have been in the process of renovation, though nothing had been done recently.
"It has been vacant for quite some time,” he said.
Investigators are working to see if the home is insured. Maryland property records indicate that it is not the owner’s primary residence. The property owner could not be reached for comment as of 4 p.m. Monday.
Around 7:30 a.m. Sunday, an employee at the Hilton two miles away reported seeing someone dousing a 2002 Hyundai Sonata with gasoline in the back parking lot, the office reported. The person fled after the employee saw them and did not ignite the gas. Alkire said investigators are still working to review surveillance camera footage. As of now, there are no suspects.
"We believe that once they were observed by the employee, that certainly scared them and [they] fled the scene,” Alkire said.
Investigators are also working to learn why the car was in that lot and to find a container the gasoline was carried in. The vehicle’s owner does not work at the hotel, Alkire said.
The Hyundai’s owner could not be reached for comment.