MARYLAND

Laurel arsons: Two more fires break out in string of fires

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Two fires that were set last Thursday and Friday in Laurel have been deemed to be the latest in a string of arsons in the city, fire officials say.

The March 3 fire at Discovery Community Park did $100,000 in damage. Photo: Pete Piringer

The most recent fires broke out in a playground on Thursday afternoon and an abandoned restaurant early Friday morning.

"That's crazy," says Taylor Jackson. "I don't understand why. That's where kids have to play."

Thursday's fire was set just after 3:30 p.m. at a playground in the 14100 block of Bowsprit Lane, Prince George's County Fire officials say. It caused about $1,000 in damage.

Less than half a day later, a closet at the abandoned Bay N' Surf restaurant in the 14400 block of Baltimore Avenue was set on fire as well. The restaurant has been closed for more than six years.

"They need to catch that person," says Leon Wran. "They're doing little stuff now, but who knows, they may start doing peoples' houses."

Investigators who looked into the cause of these two fires say that they're very similar to at least seven other mysterious fires that have been set throughout Laurel since January. The fires started Jan. 10, officials say, when a Bottom Dollar store on Route 197 was set ablaze.

About two months later, arsonists did $100,000 in damage to the Discovery Community Park. Two teenagers were arrested in connection with that fire, but the arsons continued.

Subsequent fires were set at Emancipation Park, 14300 block of Laurel Bowie Road, at Granville Gude Park and an Asian buffet restaurant. The Emancipation Park blaze did $80,000 worth of damage.

"They're not secured, not monitored," says Shawn Gipson. "Police are busy doing other things, so how can you catch something that's not regularly monitored?"

"I'm not sure this day and age what you do," says Ellen Cooper. "You can't have 24-hour surveillance on everything."

Anyone with information is asked to contact police. A reward of up to $10,000 is offered for information that leads to an arrest.

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