$5,000 Reward Offered In County Arson

October 28, 1990|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

UNION MILLS - The state fire marshal is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information about the arson fire that destroyed a historic building at the Union Mills Homestead early Thursday.

Only some charred wooden beams and pieces of the metal roof remained of the building, which was almost 200 years old and had been used as a drying shed for the tannery.

The other four buildings at the homestead, a community built around a grist mill in 1797, were not damaged.

Bob Thomas, deputy chief state fire marshal, said the fire was started in two spots -- inside the front door and outside in front.

Investigators have an idea how the fire was started, but Thomas said he could not give details Thursday because of an ongoing investigation.

Esther L. Shriver, homestead executive director, said she could see a glow from her home across the street after a neighbor awakened her.

By the time she got to the scene, "The building was gone. It was engulfed in flames," she said.

The fire was reported at 1:40 a.m., said Pleasant Valley Fire Co.

Chief Stephen A. Wantz.

The reward is offered for information that leads to an arrest or indictment in the arson, Thomas said. Anyone with information should call 1-800-492-7529.

A piece of highway repair equipment owned by Genstar Stone Products Co. in Hunt Valley that was parked at the site also was damaged. A fire had been set in the cab, Wantz said.

Westminster and Littlestown, Pa., firefighters also responded to the blaze.

Two other "suspicious" fires were reported in the area after the homestead fire was discovered.

Four or five hay bales were set alight on a farm near Stone and Hughes Shop roads, about 2 miles from the homestead, Wantz said.

Firefighters discovered the blaze at 4:50 a.m., he said.

A barn in Littlestown, about four miles from the homestead, also burned in a "suspicious" fire, which was reported at 2:30 a.m., said Michael Sneeringer, Alpha Fire Co. chief.

The tannery shed and the other homestead buildings are owned by the county and are insured, said Kathy Peeling, county risk manager.

But the contents of the tannery shed were not insured, Shriver said. The site is operated by the Union Mills Homestead Foundation.

The building was worth about $40,000, but Shriver said she did not know the value of its contents.

The shed was being used as a storage area for milling and farm equipment and tools, she said. It had been renovated, and plans called for it to house a large machinery exhibit, she said.

Micki Smith, county director of public information, said, "It was a county treasure, and treasures are irreplaceable."

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