Quenching the barn burnings Threat in Carroll: Arson dangers to life, property require strong law enforcement efforts.

November 11, 1998

THE RASH of barn burnings in Carroll County over the past few months is a serious matter. Fortunately, no people have been injured in the 11 criminal conflagrations over the past year. But the threat of harm is always present, as even the perverted mind of the arsonist can understand. The danger to farm animals and to adjacent houses is equally apparent.

This frightening crime needs strong attention by authorities to find the culprit (or culprits). The state fire marshal's office believes that the 11 Carroll County fires, including four barns torched in the past two months, are in some way related.

That is important in solving the crimes and tracking down the suspects.

The loss is financial: Many farmers don't insure their barns for full value, and a new one can cost $100,000 or more. Unlike some well-publicized arsons, it does not seem that insurance claims are behind these fires.

The loss is also historic: Several of the destroyed barns were raised in the 19th century, enduring rural landmarks that connect modern agriculture with its past. The old barns of post-and-beam LTC construction are disappearing. Their value has also increased, as evidenced by people who buy these historic structures to reassemble them elsewhere as upscale homes.

The pattern of these barn burnings suggests a pyromaniac, a person who sets fires for thrill. Other reasons, such as malice, may be involved in some burnings. But authorities could be expected to focus quickly on such apparent suspicions.

Sadly, the number of deliberately set fires is rising in these parts. The number of arsons in this region reported to the state last month was three times the average. The terror of an arson is unforgettable. That dangerous threat in Carroll County is very real, and must soon be extinguished.

Pub date 11/11/98

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