Harford Denny's fire was arson, investigators say

  • A firefighter hoses down the roof of the Abingdon Denny's after a one-alarm fire Friday morning gutted the restaurant.
A firefighter hoses down the roof of the Abingdon Denny's… (Photo by Nicole Munchel…)
August 07, 2012

Fire investigators say they have determined the fire that gutted a busy Denny's Restaurant in Harford County Friday morning was deliberately set, and they are seeking a person of interest in connection with the arson.

The mid-morning fire at the Denny's near the Route 24 and I-95 interchange caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to the 24-hour restaurant, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, which said deputy fire marshals concluded the fire's cause was "incendiary [arson]."

Investigators were able to retrieve video surveillance of a person of interest and are seeking information from the public in the effort to identify the person, according to a news release from the fire marshal's office. Photographs taken from the surveillance video have been disseminated to the media.

The unidentified person is described as a white male, 5'-11" to 6'-2" tall and weighing around 190 pounds. He was wearing an orange T-shirt, dark colored shorts, sunglasses, a dark colored baseball hat and either loafer-style shoes or sandals.

A patron discovered a fire in the men's bathroom at about 10:20 a.m. The two-alarm blaze brought 75 firefighters from several companies from Harford and Baltimore counties to the scene, the fire marshal's office said the news release issued late Sunday afternoon.

It took firefighters about 45 minutes to bring the fire under control. One employee and a firefighter from Abingdon Volunteer Fire Company were transported to Upper Chesapeake Medical Center in Bel Air for medical treatment and later released, the fire marshal's office said.

People at the scene said the fire spread rapidly, with flames shooting up from the roof by the time firefighters and equipment arrived.

There were about 50 guests and 20 employees in the restaurant, built in 1988 and owned by Patrick Hess, at the time of the fire, the fire marshal's news release continued. All patrons safely exited the building upon discovering smoke throughout the restaurant.

The fire marshal's office said a team of investigators spent the day sifting through debris searching for the cause of the fire.

Deputy state fire marshals, aided by an accelerant detection K-9 dog, concluded that a fire was intentionally set in the men's bathroom, which eventually spread to the attic and roof.

Maryland State Police troopers and Crime Scene Technicians with the Bel Air Barrack are assisting with the investigation.

Anyone with information about this fire, or who can identify the person involved, is asked to call the Northeast Regional Office at 410-836-4844 or the Maryland Arson Hotline at 1-800-492-7529

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