Fire marshal probes latest in Perry arson string

Posted Nov. 12, 2010, at 10:25 p.m.

PERRY, Maine — An investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office was in town Friday investigating the latest in a string of suspicious fires that began more than a year ago.

Perry Fire Chief Paula Frost said firefighters were called to South Meadow Road, behind the Perry Farmers Union, shortly after 6 p.m. Thursday to put out a fire at an unoccupied mobile home.

The mobile home fire occurred less than 600 yards from a house that caught fire on Nov. 2 on the same road, she said.

Frost said Friday that both fires were deemed suspicious because neither structure was occupied and neither was heated or connected to a power source. She declined to say whether accelerants were used, adding that the fires remain under investigation by personnel from the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The two fires are the latest in spree that goes back more than a year, Frost said.

In the last year alone, Perry firefighters have been called out about 75 times, she said. While more than a dozen of those were service calls, two of the three structure fires they reported to were deemed suspicious.

In addition, most of the 49 wildfires they were called upon to extinguish involved a human element, though the exact number was not immediately available, she said.

The number of suspicious fires in the town is troubling to Frost, as is the fact that buildings now are being targeted. Though she said investigators are pursuing leads, suspects remain elusive.

“I’m not sure if it’s one person” who is setting the fires, Frost said. “It might be more than one. It might be more than that.”

Frost said the number of arson fires is taking its toll on the town’s 26-member volunteer fire department.

“They haven’t really been able to have personal lives,” she said, adding that on one day alone in April, the department was called out to arson wildfires six times. “Everybody’s been on edge.”

“It’s also taking a toll on our equipment,” Frost said, citing wear and tear on turnout gear and the loss of a surplus tanker among the costs.

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