Arson awareness week targets vehicle fires

By Joe Beck

Officials with the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue Services are asking for citizens’ help as the investigation into a recent case of arson continues during the National Arson Awareness Week campaign that begins Monday.

Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said about 21 percent of the fires his office has investigated in the last five years have been ruled arson.

“Arson is one of the hardest crimes to solve and to try to get successful convictions because the evidence is destroyed,” Maiatico said.

National Arson Awareness Week is focusing this year on preventing and solving vehicle arson. Local fire departments responded to an average of 20,400 deliberately set vehicle fires from 2007 to 2011, according to the National Fire Protection Agency.

Warren County fire department officials cited personal retaliation against a vehicle owner and insurance fraud as the two most common motives for the intentional burning of a car or truck.

The most recent case of vehicle arson in Warren County was reported April 20 on Khyber Pass Road near Linden. Authorities identified the vehicle as a 2002 Chevrolet Silverado stolen in Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Law enforcement officials are searching for a man described as in his early 20s who was seen wearing a dark hoodie.

Maiatico described the theft and burning of the pickup truck as “just a small part” of several crimes that authorities have linked to the vehicle and continue to investigate.

Anyone with information about the case or other arson crimes is asked to call the Department of Fire and Rescue Services at 636-3830 or Investigator Brandon Darr of the Sheriff’s Office at 635-7100.

Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said in a news release that citizen help is needed to reduce vehicle arsons.

“While the Fire Marshal’s Office, Warren County Sheriff’s Office and Front Royal Police Department partner to aggressively investigate all arson fires, we want the community to be aware of their environment and practice the following tips,” Mabie said.

Mabie’s recommendations include reporting abandoned vehicles to the Sheriff’s Office or Front Royal Police Department, reporting any suspicious activities, and reporting any fire, including those involving vehicles, no matter how small they appear to be or whether they have been extinguished.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or