Several local fire cases still under investigation

by Kate Evans

West Virginia Assistant State Fire Marshal George Harms reported on several area fires that had been flagged as suspicious or as arson. Harms said his office determined that the January 7 Eckerd Lane house fire in Berkeley Springs does not meet the requirements of the law for arson. The Eckerd Lane house fire investigation is being handled by the Division of Natural Resources at this time.

The fire was considered suspicious and the vacant house was a total loss. Responders dealt with snowy and icy road conditions as they battled the blaze.

Harms said that the April 12, 2019 Truax Drive house fire in Berkeley Springs is still under investigation with no arrest yet. The fire destroyed a single family dwelling that was vacant and was considered arson. Assistant State Fire Marshal Joseph Vacchio said at the time that the fire was incendiary, meaning intentionally set, and he believed there were multiple points of origin in the fire.

Harms said a January 10, 2018 Lee Street house fire in Paw Paw was a cold case with no leads developed. It was also considered arson. Harms ruled the fire as incendiary or intentionally set after his investigation of the fire scene.

In response to Morgan Messenger questions about the fires, Harms said, “I don’t think there is an arsonist roaming Morgan County. I think these cases are isolated. There are varied circumstances to all of the fires that I am aware of.”

Harms said that since July, 2012 his office has been involved in response to 48 fires in Morgan County. Of those 48 fires, 20 have been determined accidental, 11 have been determined incendiary in which six people have been arrested and 17 have been ruled undetermined.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office arson reward program offers up to a $5,000 reward for information about suspicious fires. Anyone with any information about house fires that have been determined as arson should call 1-800-233-3473 or 1-800-233-FIRE.