Few eyebrows raised at new Ellicott City arson Business owners see blaze as unrelated to earlier fires


Last week's arson fire at a historic Ellicott City flower shop has drawn little attention from business owners, who believe it was an isolated incident and not related to the series of arsons that plagued the town earlier this year.

"Most people are calm and collected," said Barry Gibson, president of the Ellicott City Business Association. "It's almost 00 like our flood watches around here," he said. "If it rains a little bit, people just don't get too excited. But if it starts pouring, that's when people become concerned."

The Tuesday afternoon fire at Crafty Creations in the 3700 block of Old Columbia Pike started on an upstairs floor and caused about $50,000 in smoke and water damage, fire officials said.

"We have ruled out all accidental causes, and we believe the fire was maliciously started," said Deputy Fire Marshal Bob Thomas. "The only thing we will release is, upon examining the third-floor display area and the materials located there, we found no signs of an accidental fire."

The fire occurred in the middle of Tongue Row, a handful of shops and homes that were built in the 1840s. Shop owner Scott Staton, proprietor of the Arms Room located next door, had to move guns, records and books out of his store, which suffered minor smoke damage.

"Every time there's a fire, it puts everybody on edge," he said. "The closer it gets to your own business, the more you feel it."

William Nelson, manager of Hi Ho Silver, also on Tongue Row, saw smoke pouring out of an upstairs window. "But nothing like the blaze that came from next door," said Mr. Nelson, referring to the three-alarm March blaze that destroyed Taylor's Warehouse, just a couple of yards away.

Historic Ellicott City was the site of several suspicious fires earlier this year, including a $500,000 blaze at the antique furniture warehouse on Main Street and Old Columbia Pike.

A 33-year-old Columbia pharmacist, James Francis McManus, was arrested in connection with a small fire at the Antique Depot on the 3700 block of Maryland Ave.

He was also charged with starting several other fires in Howard and Baltimore counties and is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

A reward of up to $5,000 is offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest or indictment of the suspect or suspects. Call the state arson hot line at 800-492-7529.

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