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'It's not a coincidence': Neighbor questions timing of Columbia fire following suspicious behavior

Posted at 10:48 PM, Apr 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-05 23:16:04-04

COLUMBIA, Md. — Howard County Police continue to investigate a fire that left 20 people homeless in Columbia.

It happened around 3:30 am Tuesday morning at The Bluffs At Hawthorn.

RELATED: Police investigating possible arson from Columbia apartment fire that left 20 homeless

"This is where I lived or used to live," said Jason Stein. "My roommate woke up to a loud crash. He head glass breaking on the second floor."

Following that sound there were flames.  

Police investigating possible arson from Columbia apartment fire that left 20 homeless

Jason Stein said at first he didn't believe his roommate when he said the apartment below them was on fire.

"There have been disturbances and issues in the past, so I really didn't think much of it," he said. "When I saw the smoke, I knew there was an issue."

Jumping into action, Stein tried getting other tenants to safety. 

"I started banging on everybody’s doors, trying to get everybody out," Stein said. "When I ran down outside that's when I saw the fire for the first time."

 Investigators are looking into the possibility of arson after remnants of an incendiary device was found among the debris. 

Stein said he’s not surprised. 

"No not really," Stein said. "When I came down people in the apartment, they were down here and someone made a joke saying, 'Oh they threw a firebomb at us this time.' I though it was a joke."

ATF is assisting in the fire investigation. 

Howard County Police Public Information Officer Seth Hoffman confirmed fire crews found found a device commonly associated with arson.

“We haven’t determined yet what the device was exactly or how the fire started, so we’re still working on that but there was evidence that it was intentionally set,” Hoffman said.

Stein said he’s interested to hear how things play out given the fact he’s called the leasing office and police on his neighbors for what he calls suspicious behavior in the past. 

"Prior to this, around 8:30 on Monday morning there was a big altercation outside. There were fist fights. Cops came out and broke it up. No arrest were made. Basically, they hugged it out and everything was cool but less than 24 hours this happens. It’s not a coincidence."

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call local police.