PIEDMONT, W.Va. — A series of intentionally-set fires in the Tri-Towns and neighboring communities has prompted officials to alert citizens to "be vigilant about any vacant nearby properties.”

The fires have occurred in vacant residences and have all taken place in the nighttime hours before dawn.

“There’s somebody running around setting these fires," Piedmont firefighter Pat Amoruso said. "They all have occurred in vacant properties and in the early morning hours."

Amoruso, a former Piedmont fire chief, made the comments not long after responding to a blaze that destroyed a vacant dwelling at 89 East Hampshire St. owned by Piedmont resident Fred Price.

“There was a column of fire 50 feet high when we got there,” said Amoruso, who was among the first firefighters at the scene following the alarm at 2:29 a.m. Monday.

The fire consumed the property and also caused extensive damage to a neighboring vacant dwelling," he said. "It extended to the third floor and got through the roof," Amoruso said.

Firefighters from 10 companies and four counties responded to the two-alarm fire.

Amoruso said fire Aug. 6 in a vacant Beacon Street dwelling in Keyser was deliberately set and occurred during the pre-dawn hours.

On July 5, fire at about 12:30 a.m. caused heavy damage at 136 East Hampshire St. in Piedmont. The fire remains under investigation by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office and a $5,000 reward is being offered for information in that incident.

It was Aug. 1 at 12:30 a.m. when fire destroyed an abandoned residence at 11220 Queens Point Road in McCoole. The fire was ruled arson by Maryland state fire investigators.

Arson was also ruled in the July 29 fire that destroyed a vacant two-story property at Robin Street in Lonaconing, resulting in charges against a 17-year-old youth.

An early morning fire July 6 also destroyed a vacant property at 51 State St. in Keyser. The West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office ruled that fire as accidental.

Sunday, fire at about 5 a.m. destroyed a vacant double-wide residence on Webster Drive in the Fort Ashby area, prompting alert of numerous volunteer fire companies to assist the first-due Fort Ashby Volunteer Fire Department.

“If you have a vacant property nearby, you need to be very vigilant about anything going on out of the ordinary. If you see anything suspicious, notify authorities,” Amoruso said.

Information may be provided to the West Virginia Arson Hotline at 1-800-233-FIRE.

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