Cumberland Times-News

October 15, 2013

South End blaze latest in series of ‘suspicious’ residential fires

Jeffrey Alderton
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A predawn fire that heavily damaged a garage outside a Roberts Street residence Tuesday has been determined to be suspicious, according to Cumberland Fire Chief Donnie Dunn.

The incident was the latest in a series of suspicious residential fires that has occurred in recent months in the same South End section of the city.

At 3:28 a.m. Tuesday, the Allegany County 911 center alerted city firefighters to a fire in a 24-by-12-foot concrete block garage structure in the first block of West Roberts Street.

The fire was doused in an exterior attack and units were on the scene for nearly two hours.

Damages to the property owned by Ralph Layman were estimated at $4,000.

Numerous calls streamed into the 911 center to report the blaze.

Cumberland Fire Department Lt. W. Shannon Adams, the city fire marshal, remained at the scene throughout the morning attempting to determine the cause and origin of the early-morning fire.

Dunn said the fire was suspicious although the precise cause was not yet known.

Other suspicious residential fires that have occurred in the neighborhood in recent months include a predawn fire about nine weeks ago at 135 E. Mary St.

The Aug. 22 fire occurred on a rear porch of the residence at 4:48 a.m., while the occupants were asleep inside the two-story dwelling.

The residents fled to safety when they were awakened by city firefighters.

The fire was determined to be suspicious through investigation by Cumberland Fire Capt. Chris Ratliff and Deputy Fire Marshal K. Nieberlein of the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office.

A fire that occurred in a vacant property at 106 E. Roberts St. on Jan. 21 was determined to be suspicious.

Damages were estimated at more than $12,000. Radiant heat also caused damage to a nearby structure at 100 E. Roberts. That damage was estimated at about $5,000.

A fire on Jan. 13 at 1012 Ella Ave. was initially considered to be suspicious. However, further investigation has caused officials to believe the fire was accidental.

 Adams contacted residents in the Roberts Street area Tuesday as part of his investigation.

“We would like to hear from anyone who has any information about any of these fires,” said Adams, who can be contacted at 301-759-6484.

Information may also be provided to the arson hot line at 301-766-3888.

The investigations have included assistance from the Cumberland Police Department in addition to state fire investigators.

Jeffrey Alderton may be contacted at