A 26-year-old man who told police he liked to light fires is accused of starting two blazes in Federal Hill yesterday afternoon, one of them causing $50,000 worth of damage to a vacant building near the Key Highway waterfront, officials said.
"He said that he was a fireman and that he liked to watch fires," said Sgt. William F. Eid, of the Southern District.
The man who officials said lived several blocks from the vacant building was taken to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. He was not charged last night, police said.
Police said the man, whose identity they would not release, was arrested near the 100-foot-long abandoned building in the 500 block of E. Cross St. while the building was still burning.
The two-alarm fire sent columns of smoke into the damp Christmas Eve air and attracted scores of onlookers from the surrounding Federal Hill neighborhood.
Residents said they have been concerned about the possibility of fires in vacant buildings, which often are occupied by homeless people.
Minutes before the fire started in the abandoned building, a mattress was set ablaze in the back of a rowhouse in the 200 block of E. Cross St., police said. They said the man also is a suspect in that fire, which scorched the back of the house, causing $500 in damage.
At 3:30 p.m., the second blaze started in the vacant building, which neighbors said once housed a restaurant.
Sergeant Eid said trash was ignited outside a wooden door, and the fire quickly engulfed the building.
"The wind just spread it real fast," the sergeant said, referring to gusts that blew through Baltimore yesterday afternoon.
It took about 50 firefightes one hour to bring the fire under control.
No injuries were reported.