Arson damages four vehicles in Maryland City

Some houses affected by intense heat of flames

Police believe fires are related

First incident in November

latest occurred Sunday

Anne Arundel

January 29, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A few days before Christmas, at about 3 in the morning, a neighbor pounded on a Maryland City couple's bedroom window.

Panicked, Carol and Bernie Buczynski threw on their robes and slippers and stepped out into the cold night air, where they saw their 1993 Ford Taurus station wagon lit up like a torch.

The fire was so hot that it melted the vinyl siding on part of their single-story house on Horsehead, where they had lived without incident for more than 30 years. "I just sort of stood there, numb," said Carol Buczynski. "I couldn't believe it."

Someone is setting vehicles on fire in Maryland City, and Anne Arundel County fire investigators are trying to find that person, or people. The fires have caused more than $20,000 in damage in the usually quiet neighborhood.

There have been four vehicle fires - all within a few blocks of each other - in two months. The latest fire was set at about 2:15 a.m. Sunday inside a green Ford Explorer parked at a home in the 200 block of Iron Shire.

Investigators aren't sure whether each fire was set by the same person, but the incidents are strikingly similar.

"Arson is very, very difficult to determine and difficult to prosecute," said Division Chief John M. Scholz, spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. "The evidence usually burns up."

There are some clues in the Maryland City cases.

Each fire was set between 2 a.m. and 3:30 a.m. to the interior of the vehicle. Two fires were on Crumpton, and the other two were nearby - at the Buczynskis' house on Horsehead and at the house on Iron Shire.

Each time, an accelerant - perhaps charcoal lighter fluid - was used.

Some of the burned vehicles were parked in driveways while others were on the street; some were locked while others were unlocked.

The arsonist apparently used a neighbor's birdbath to break a window on their locked vehicle, the Buczynskis said.

It took just a few minutes for the fire to scorch the interior of the vehicle, causing the driver's side airbag to burst. Flames licked the white siding of the house, melted the maroon shutters and warped the bay window. The siding on a neighbor's house bubbled from the heat. The fire caused more than $6,000 damage to the house and totaled the vehicle, valued at about $2,500.

The Buczynskis hadn't heard about a similar vehicle fire the month before on nearby Crumpton, but they said they told neighbors what had happened to them at a civic association meeting earlier this month.

"We just want people to know what's going on," Bernie Buczynski said.

The third vehicle fire was set Jan. 17 on Crumpton, and the fire on Iron Shire was set last weekend.

"I wouldn't want this to happen to anybody," Carol Buczynski said. "But at least we know it's not just us."

Anyone with information about the vehicle fires is asked to call (410) 222-TIPS.

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