Police, fire log

Police, fire log

October 03, 1990


Two arson fires over the weekend at the old Freestate Raceway in Laurel caused $125,000 damage to the closed harness track, authorities said.

The fires, under investigation by the state fire marshal's office, destroyed most of the grandstand area, the jockey's lounge and first aid building at the track, which is scheduled to be demolished to make way for a business park.

Investigators have not determined if the same person or people are responsible for the two blazes, which occurred on Saturday afternoon and early Monday morning.

"Right now both sets of fires are under investigation and the possibility that they were set by the same people exists," said John Earp, a deputy state fire marshal.

"There's also the possibility that entirely different individuals may have gone in there and did it," he said.

Two white males between the ages of 12 and 15 who were seen running from the raceway area shortly before noon on Saturday are being sought by police for questioning about the first fire, said Bob Thomas, a spokesman with the state fire marshal's office.

That fire was discovered around noon Saturday by a motorist, who noticed heavy smoke while driving past the raceway, just east of U.S. 1.

Firefighters from Howard and Prince George's counties attacked the three-alarm blaze for about two hours before it was extinguished.

The fire started under the grandstand and spread to the first floor concourse, where it was contained by firefighters. Fire damage was estimated at $100,000.

Thomas said that fire investigators have an idea about how the blaze was set, but he declined to provide any details.

Units from Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel fire stations reponded to the second fire, discovered about 12:30 a.m. Monday morning by a Howard county police officer on patrol.

The two-alarm blaze, which was under control about two hours later, heavily damaged the jockey's lounge building and the first aid building.

Damage was estimated at $25,000.

A firefighter from Prince George's county suffered an eye injury and was treated at the scene.

Thomas declined to comment on how the second fire was set, except to say it was arson.

The 107-acre track site is to be converted into an office and industrial park by the Free State Racing Associated Limited Partnership.


The state fire marshal's office is investigating a tractor-trailer fire that destroyed a moving van at a Jessup truck stop.

County firefighters responded to a call about 2 a.m. Sunday to find a United Van Lines tractor-trailer in flames in the Trucker's Inn parking lot at routes 1 and 175, said county fire department spokesman Michael Gearheart.

The blaze was under control within 20 minutes and was extinguished by 2:49 a.m.

The van contained no furniture, only moving equipment and blankets. The fire caused about $31,000 in damage.


A Laurel man died Sunday after being struck by a car while crossing U.S. 1 in Laurel, county police said.

Roy W. Cruz, 39, suffered severe head and internal injuries in the accident, which occurred at 12:55 p.m. He was transported initially to Greater Laurel-Beltsville Hospital and then flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he died several hours later.

Police report that Cruz was walking across U.S. 1 southbound in an area not designated for crossing when he was hit by a 1987 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Stephen M. Novotny, 26, of Ellicott City.

No other vehicles were involved in the accident, which is still under investigation by county police.

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