Residents at Dennis Mobile Park in the 8200 block of Washington Boulevard in Jessup say the burning of a $30,000 model mobile home is unrelated to their problems with management.
Instead, they believe the blaze was set by teen-agers who live within or nearby the mobile home park.
Deputy state fire marshal Robert B. Thomas Jr. said Friday the fire has been classified as arson and that investigators are looking for juvenile suspects.
The Dennis and the Ark mobile home park next door are being shut down and most of the tenants there -- many of them elderly and on fixed incomes -- face eviction.
Residents have been told they can move to a new park management is building if they buy a mobile home that meets federal standards. Most of the homes in the park were built before federal standards were mandated.
Despite the hostility many residents feel toward management as a result of the forced eviction, none believe the fire set to an unoccupied displaymodel shortly after midnight Monday was the work of an angry tenant or ex-tenant.
Residents, who own their homes but rent the spaces on which their homes sit, say teen-agers often cut school during the day while their parents are at work and enter vacant trailers at night.
The man who reported the fire, who asked not to be identified, said he had heard a dog barking shortly after midnight and looked out the window to see some teen-agers running through the park near the vacant model.
Moments later, he saw the model ablaze and called thefire department. The model was sitting on blocks on a lot next to the highway. It had been hit and damaged by a car couple of weeks earlier.
The fire report was received at 12:29 a.m. Witnesses said flames leaped 60 feet in the air.
Fifteen fire service personnel from Savage, Long Reach and Laurel responded to the blaze and brought it under control by 12:45 a.m. It was declared out by 2:25 a.m. The modelwas completely destroyed. Nothing remains but blackened timbers thatsupported the wall board.
"It was so hot, I thought the whole park was on fire," one witness said, pointing out how the sides of a vacant trailer nearby had melted. "If parents would keep their kids in the house, this wouldn't happen," he said.
Three teen-agers who were in the park late Friday morning said they first learned of the firewhen they were awakened by sirens. They said the blaze was far enough away from their homes that they were not worried about it spreading.
Battalion chief Donald Howell said that if the fire had been near occupied mobile homes, "residents would have been evacuated as a matter of precaution," since such a fire can spread rapidly.
Employees at the mobile home park said the owner, Gilbert A. Mobley, was outof town and could not be reached for comment.