Fire officials are investigating whether three small fires which broke out in the early morning hours Tuesday in a neighborhood off of Fountain Green Road in northern Bel Air are connected, and whether those incidents are the work of a suspected arsonist who has been at large in the area over the last several weeks, fire officials said.
The fires occurred between midnight and 7 a.m. Tuesday at two homes and a trash container located within approximately 1,500 feet of each other in the Hampton Ridge neighborhood, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office in Bel Air.
However, investigators have not yet determined whether those three blazes are connected to each other or to another dumpster fire which broke out two weeks ago in the same neighborhood.
“We have not identified a connection,” Deputy Chief State Fire Marshall Mark Bilger said. “It’s suspicious, or interesting, that we’ve identified a pocket that’s had all these fires recently.”
Bilger said the investigation is in the early stages, and fire officials were canvassing the neighborhood and had alerted other local law enforcement agencies to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Two of the fires were discovered by owners of homes in the 1200 block of Runnymede Lane and the 1300 block of Henderson Court. In each instance, a front door mat was set on fire, and at the Runnymede Lane home, the suspect or suspects also attempted to light several items on the rear deck on fire.
The exact time at which the fires were lit is unknown, but state fire officials said the incidents are believed to have occurred between midnight and 7 a.m. Damage to both homes and their contents was estimated at a total of $100 each.
A third fire was reported at approximately 4:45 a.m. by a passerby who discovered a blaze in a dumpster on the 1000 block of Manchester Court. A total of 20 firefighters from the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company brought the fire under control in about five minutes. Damage to the dumpster was estimated at $300.
The Henderson Court and Runnymede Lane homes are approximately 1,500 to 2,000 feet apart, and the dumpster on Manchester Court lies just a short distance from the latter residence.
The dumpster fire is similar to another incident which occurred in the early morning hours of May 14 on the 700 block of Henderson Road, at the other end of the same development. In that earlier case, a dumpster was lit on fire at approximately 3:30 a.m., the state fire marshal’s office said.
Fire officials said last week that the May 14 dumpster fire is believed to be linked to blazes intentionally set in two stolen vehicles in the woods near Cedar Lane in southern Bel Air, as well as a number of other recent small fires throughout the greater Bel Air area.
However, Bilger on Wednesday said investigators had not determined whether the Tuesday fires were the work of the same person or group.
“We have a feeling, or an idea…but we have nothing definite to say that [incidents] B, C, D are connected,” Bilger said. “Even though they’re very similar to each other, it would be premature to say for sure that they’re connected.”