Valley Fire Marshal Still Investigating Multiple Fires

SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. -- The following statement is offered from the Shenandoah County Fire Marshal:

As a certified law enforcement officer trained specifically in investigating criminal cases involving fires, my main responsibility is to investigate any fires and rule out criminal intent.

Once all criminal acts have been ruled out as a possible cause and the nature of the fire points to an accident, the fire is passed over to the insurance company. The insurance company’s fire investigator further processes the incident looking into the accidental cause.

During the process of investigating a fire, the Fire Marshal’s Office uses a systematic approach to determine if the fire is criminal in nature.

There are two main portions of this approach: 1) on scene processing/investigation and 2) information gathering and conducting interviews/intelligence after the incident.

The larger and lengthiest portion of the process is the information gathering and interviewing. It can sometimes take months to finalize all of this and fully rule out any criminal activity.

The Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office uses many resources during a fire investigation. Some of these resources are outside agencies. In most—if not all—cases, the Fire Marshal’s Office works hand-in-hand with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office involvement depends on the resource needed during an investigation. It can be as small as gathering intelligence to having numerous personnel help with the many facets of a case. The Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office also provides the primary support when the certified law enforcement officer with Shenandoah County Fire and Rescue is unavailable.

The Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office is currently processing information on all four fires that have occurred within the Toms Brook and Maurertown area since March 20, 2014.

We have asked for outside assistance on these fires. Agencies assisting in these investigations include but are not limited to: Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner with the Virginia Department of Health.

The Shenandoah County Fire Marshal’s Office has also been consulting with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

All four fires are still in the early stages of their investigation. The Department recognizes and is analyzing the proximity of the four fires.

Fire at 55 Jessica Place:

Currently in this analytical phase, our current findings indicate that the double fatality fire at 55 Jessica and the fire at 36 Roberts Road have differences that do not have a clear connection to one another or the remaining two fires.

The fire located at 55 Jessica Place on March 20 is still in the investigation phase of the process and the Department is waiting for autopsy reports from the medical examiner’s office. Preliminary findings at this point lead to an accidental fire.

Agencies assisting in this case included Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Further processing and review of information is still needed for the Jessica Place incident.

Fire at 192 County Farm Lane:

On April 13, the county experienced the sad loss of the Alms House at 192 County Farm Lane.

This investigation has been a very complex and challenging case due to the extensive damage that was caused by the fire and the unsafe conditions that the rest of building posed to on-scene processing.

The Department recognizes that the community is devastated by the destruction of such a historical landmark and that people are interested in learning what led to this destruction. The Department is working very methodically in this case as we do with other cases to discover a cause. We’re currently working with outside agencies to determine the cause of the fire.

Fire at 36 Roberts Road:

The fire located at 36 Roberts Road on April 23 is still in the investigation phase of the process and the department is following up on information and evidence obtained. Preliminary reports at this point suggest that it was an accidental fire with no connection with the other fires in the area.

Fire at 24771 Old Valley Pike:

On April 27, the Department responded to a fire located at 24771 Old Valley Pike. This fire remains under investigation and is in the very early stages of the investigation. Agencies helping on this case include the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Department and the Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office.

Closing Thoughts:
I would like to remind people that fires have a very devastating affect on people’s lives and property, and it is important that everyone be vigilant in preventing fires.

The most important step that one can take is to have working smoke detectors.

I would encourage everyone to reflect on the recent fires and how they could improve their overall fire safety within their residence and workplace.

For guidance in developing prevention measures in your home or business, please call the Fire Marshal’s Office at 540-459-6177.


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