BEL AIR, Md. — The fires came at 3:30 in the morning on Saturday at a pair of buildings tucked off of Bel Air Road in Harford County, destroying that which burned and a million dollars more in damage from the heavy smoke and the water to put them out.
One started in the back of Howard Brown’s Too Tuff to Buff detailing business.
“I, personally, thought I was targeted, because of all of the buildings around here, he comes in the back and he knows where he’s going and he came to my building. I had a couple of cars in there,” said Brown.
Eight businesses in all have been impacted, and Mike Miller says this may be it for his custom auto business.
“We just had the whole place redone---construction, you can see the faces, everything is brand new. That took three months so that didn’t help either,” said Miller. “This definitely puts a damper on this. Whatever even happens after this, I don’t even know if I’m even going to reopen now.”
The victims say it appears someone pulled out old exhaust fans, which had been covered up in both buildings, poured an accelerant through the openings and ignited it.
“A team of deputy state fire marshals worked throughout the day and eventually found the fires were incendiary or arson in nature,” said Sr. Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire. “During the course of their investigation, a suspicious vehicle was reported around the area. Investigators believe this is a truck, described as a late-model, red in color, possibly 2015-2019 Dodge Ram 1500 four-door.”
The Fire Marshal's Office has since released surveillance photos of a man they believe could be tied to the fires, with a similar truck that was reported in the area at the time of the incident.
While victims are left questioning why they were targeted, Howard Brown suspects it could have been based in hate over the color of his skin.
“I’m the only black business in the neighborhood… in this neighborhood here, but I don’t know,” said Brown. “I have had problems before with people unloosening the lugs on the cars.”
If you know anything about the fires or if you recognize the suspicious vehicle, you’re asked to call the Northeast Regional Office of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. That number is 410-386-3050.