Police see arson as possible cause of Highland fire

November 01, 2008|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Larry.carson@baltsun.com

Howard County police are investigating the possibility of arson in a fire that destroyed a one-story wood home in Highland early yesterday.

A man who drove away from the home as firefighters arrived was later stopped by police and taken to the hospital, police said. Police did not release the man's name, but neighbors identified him as Scott Wilson, the resident of the home, which is in the 7200 block of Mink Hollow Road, near the Montgomery County line.

The man was taken to Howard County General Hospital, though police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn said he did not appear to be injured.

The house was an older rancher-style on a large, wooded lot in a rural portion of southern Howard County. Huge clouds of black smoke were visible several miles away by 9 a.m., before the blaze was extinguished less than an hour later, fire officials said.

Fire department spokesman Charles Sharpe said that the first calls came in at 8:30 a.m. and that the home was "fully engulfed in flames" when the first of 75 firefighters using 20 pieces of equipment arrived. Water was drawn from tankers and from the Little Patuxent River nearby.

By 10 a.m., only portions of the outer walls remained standing, as clouds of heavy steam rose from the ruins.

Ray McGowan, 45, who lives next door, said that a neighbor's phone call alerted him to the billowing smoke and that he ran over to the burning house before emergency workers arrived. He said he found Wilson sitting in his vehicle.

The fire department did not provide a damage estimate, but state tax assessment records list the home's value at $487,000. Police said the man taken to the hospital was the sole occupant of the home.

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