Melfa, Va. – Another likely arson was reported on the Eastern Shore early Thursday morning. There have been 62 arsons reported in the area since mid-November.
Virginia State Police and fire crews were called at 12:40 am to the structure fire in the 29500 block of Lankford Highway.
The fire was in a single story unoccupied commercial building. No injuries were reported.
State police say a review of the arsons has concluded that 69 percent of the fires are being discovered between 6 p.m. and midnight. However, after sunrise additional fire sites have been found, as well. The majority of the targeted structures have been located on primary and secondary routes, with easy access to other roads.
“Based on the evidence to date, we are confident that these fires are being set anywhere between an hour to two hours before being discovered,” said Capt. Timothy A. Reibel, Commander of the BCI Chesapeake Field Office. “Some of the targeted structures have been in very remote, random locations throughout this rural county. This not only makes the fires more difficult to detect, but also enables the criminal to come and go with minimal detection.”
“Thus we are asking the residents to keep a very watchful eye on abandoned or vacant properties during the day time and early evening hours for suspicious activity or persons,” continued Reibel. “Please look out for an unfamiliar car or truck parked on your road especially if you live on a road that would provide easy access to an abandoned structure nearby.”
Residents can report suspicious activity to the Accomack County Tip Line via text, phone or email at 757-655-1437. Since established Feb. 14, 2013, the tip line has received close to 100 calls, texts and emails.
“We are thankful no one has been hurt as a result of the arsons, but it could only be a matter of time before that changes and a citizen, firefighter or investigator is seriously injured. So, we urge those individuals who may have any information to contact us. If you see something suspicious – call us. If you see someone or something that looks out-of-place – call us. The public is the eyes and ears of its community. We depend on those eyes and ears to help us because solving crimes, especially arsons, happen when residents and law enforcement work together,” stated Reibel.
The $25,000 reward is still available for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the arson fires. The reward has been made available through funds committed by the Accomack County Sheriff’s Office and International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI).
In Virginia, state law declares the burning of a structure – an unoccupied dwelling – as a Class 4 Felony. A Class 4 Felony carries a maximum penalty of up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.