MCFRS News Release

Arson Awareness Week - May 7-13, 2006

''Wildfire Arson – Preparedness and Prevention''

The theme for this year's national Arson Awareness Week is “Wildfire Arson – Preparedness and Prevention”. Arson and other uncontrolled wildland fires pose a serious threat to lives, property, and natural resources in our rural and suburban communities. Conditions are particularly hazardous in the wildland-urban interface, where structures and other human developments meet or intermingle with forests and grasslands.

Recently in Montgomery County several wildland fires have kept firefighters busy and have destroyed dozens of acres of fields, woodland and forests, as well as a few structures. In February, March and April of this year Fire Investigators believe several large and time-consuming fires in the Lake Needwood area near the 6700 block of Needwood Road, in Derwood; a few in the 8700 block of Snouffer School Road, in Gaithersburg; and a couple more in the vicinity of Great Seneca Park near the Blunt Road, Watkins Meadow Drive and Watkins Mill Road were deliberately set.

Numerous fires in these areas were considered incendiary in nature or arson. Extremely dry conditions, wind and other weather conditions contributed to the rapid spread. In all, more than 20 acres was burned and took hundreds of hours to extinguish. In addition these fires collectively required the use of many resources, including on several occasions a specially trained group of wildland firefighters from Frederick County and a team from the State of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Forestry Service.

Nationally, the damage associated with wildland arson, acreage and dollar losses is more than all other causes associated with wildland fires. The increased risk of wildland fires, associated with the rapid development of structures in the wildland-urban interface, makes it all that more important to develop arson prevention and preparedness programs. Preventing, mitigating and preparing for wildland arson are important steps in protecting lives, minimizing property loss and providing for firefighter safety.

And to do all of these things requires an effort by property owners, fire service organizations and local business and government leaders. Penalties for arson could lead to 30 years in prison and $50,000 in fines. As is often the case with arson, due to recklessly putting others in harm, additional charges, such as attempted murder and reckless endangerment can be initiated.

We ask that everyone be vigilant and report any and all suspicious activities.

If you know or suspect that an arson crime has been committed, contact the ARSON Tip line at 240-777-2263 or call your local fire or police department.

Montgomery County Active and Cold Cases –

Steps that can be taken to reduce the incidents of arson: