An investigation into two Laurel playground fires has revealed a possible connection with four other fires in the area, officials said.
Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the city has doubled its reward to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.
“Our parks, all of our city streets, and our area businesses should be safe and welcoming to all of us who live, work and enjoy the Laurel area,” Moe said. “The safety and well-being of our children, our residents and our businesses is foremost.”
Two playground fires, at Discovery Park on March 3 and Emancipation Park on March 11, completely destroyed play sets on the site, and authorities believe the two incidents may be connected. Both fires are believed to have been intentionally set, according to authorities.
A small playground fire March 8 at Granville Gude Park that led to the arrest of two juveniles is not believed to be related to the other fires, said Scott Hoglander, Prince George’s County deputy fire chief.
However, a second fire March 22 at the Granville Gude Park stage may be connected to the other fires, Hoglander said.
Other fires being investigated as arsons are the Jan. 10 fire at the Bottom Dollar Store on state Route 197, a fire to the rear of an office building in the 14300 block of Laurel Bowie Road on March 20 and the March 23 fire at Empire Buffet restaurant located in the 14500 block of Laurel Place.
The cause of a fire March 6 at Laurel Fuel Heating and Cooling on Main Street is under investigation and may also be connected to the other fires, Hoglander said.
“We are looking at a number of fires that appear to be deliberately set within a short geographical area within a short amount of time. When you compare that to normal response patterns, it’s a high enough number to indicate some connection,” Hoglander said.
The fires have caused an estimated $600,000 in damages, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said.
Although no one has been hurt in any of the blazes, Bashoor noted that firefighters put their lives on the line whenever they enter a burning building.
“Now we are dealing with the heinous crime of cowardly acts that we believe have needlessly placed people at risk and in harm’s way,” Bashoor said. “Not only are residents and occupants in danger, but every time firefighters enter a burning building, they risk injury and even death if the building collapses while they search for victims and attempt to extinguish the fires.”
Moe urged anyone with information to come forward by calling 301-77ARSON (301-772-7766) or emailing 77Arson@co.pg.md.us. Callers may remain anonymous.