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The Aegis
Harford County

Pete Raia nominated for Deputy State Fire Marshal of The Year award

Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Pete Raia has been selected as the Northeast region nominee for the Deputy State Fire Marshal of the Year award. The Northeast region of the Office of the State Fire Marshal includes Harford, Cecil and Carroll counties, and state-owned properties in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

Raia will contend with other nominees for the 2021 James C. Robertson Deputy State Fire Marshal of the Year award, which will be handed out during the Maryland state firefighters’ convention in Ocean City next month.

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“By getting this award, it’s a direct reflection of not only my work but also my colleagues who have helped me along the way,” said Raia. “In this field of criminal investigation, it is very difficult to not embrace the team concept. If it were up to me, I would nominate every individual in this office.”

Before becoming a state fire marshal, Raia was a fire protection engineer with the Department of Defense after graduating from the University of Maryland. Raia said he pursed a position as a fire marshal to combine his childhood dreams of becoming a police officer and firefighter.

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Fire marshals work closely with the fire department to determine how fires in their jurisdiction were caused and by whom. They investigate fires that were intentionally set and arrest the people believed to be responsible for them.

“I always wanted to be a police officer or firefighter, and the State Fire Marshal’s Office offers a unique job opportunity to take both professional disciplines and put them together,” Raia said. “The reason why I got into this field is because it blended aspects of the fire service and law enforcement together.”

Raia was nominated by his supervisor, Deputy Chief Dexter Hodges, commander of the Northeast region. Hodges considered Raia’s case load, case closure rate, community awards and more in making the nomination, according to Assistant Public Information Officer and Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire.

“Raia has always exhibited professionalism, a very proactive approach to problem-solving, a team-oriented mindset, and an admirable level of competence in his craft,” Hodges said in a news release. “He possesses leadership skills and did not hesitate to utilize them on several occasions. He consistently shares with his colleagues any investigative tools to increase their chances of success.”

Raia assisted with investigations led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, completed his reports and took part in annual training. Last year, Raia was the primary investigator on 24 fire and explosive investigations, and made four felony arrests. He also assisted on 71 other fire and explosive investigations.

Raia said his most notable case as primary investigator was a cross-regional case in Cecil County where Dwight Heath Holmes, Jr., 33, of Elkton, is charged with torching his ex-girlfriend’s mobile home.

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The fire marshal’s office said investigators determined Holmes was responsible for intentionally setting the blaze before 1 a.m. Feb. 10 at a single-wide mobile home in the Lakeside Mobile Home Park in North East. When firefighters arrived, they entered the mobile home believing someone was there and suffered burns. Holmes was arrested on April 28 and held without bond on more than a dozen charges, including arson, attempted second-degree murder, assault and reckless endangerment.

Raia has taught other investigators aspects of cellphone technology. He also has taught the “When to Call an Investigator” course to fire departments throughout the region. In addition, he’s led the renovation of the regional Fire Investigation Unit facilities and initiated research on a new location for the Bel Air office.

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Raia could not provide specifics of the cellular phone techniques used since it is law enforcement sensitive information, but he did explain the “When to call an Investigator Class.”

The Office of the State Fire Marshal receives the majority of its requests to conduct an investigation through a jurisdiction’s fire department, Raia said. The fire department will respond to a fire, and will request an investigator under certain circumstances.

The class explains to the local fire department how to identify some of the circumstances that would prompt the request for an investigator to investigate the cause of the fire, Raia said.

A secondary purpose of the class is to develop a peer to peer relationship between the law enforcement investigators that make up the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the fire department personnel requesting their help, Raia said.

The Office of the State Fire Marshal is an agency of the Maryland State Police dedicated to helping protect citizens from fire and explosion through a comprehensive program of education, inspection, investigation and fire protection engineering.


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