Six businesses, two of them Hispanic-owned, suffered destructive fires early Sunday the 17th in two separate shopping centers in Gaithersburg, Maryland, under strange circumstances that have led police to suspect that the fires were arson.
A suspect is in custody for the multiple fires, and investigations into those cases are underway, police announced.
The first fire was reported at 2:30 a.m. at the Holbrook Center, located across from Gaithersburg High School in the 400 block of South Frederick Avenue near Education Boulevard, department spokesman Pete Piringer told reporters. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.
When the troops were still fighting the fire at the Holbrook Center, a second fire was reported, which occurred around 3:15 in the morning at the La Frontera and El Salvadoreño restaurants on Russell Avenue, also in Gaithersburg. Both prepare Salvadoran food, neighbors said.
About 150 firefighters battled to extinguish the fire at the two locations.
Piringer said that "fire investigators, of course, believe the fires are suspicious in nature, based solely on geography and time of day." He added that both incidents “are connected, and there is a person of interest who has been identified, who is in custody.”
Additionally, according to Piringer, there were about six fires during the early hours of Sunday and investigators believe they are related.
It was learned that a neighbor of the La Frontera restaurant said that at that time (2:30 am) he was sleeping and woke up “by noises that sounded like gunshots” and managed to see a vehicle half destroyed by fire.
The owner arrives
The next day the affected businesses were seen semi-destroyed and with debris everywhere. Mary Covell, owner of the building on Russell Avenue, toured the area and shook her head ruefully. “It was so difficult to come under these circumstances and see so much damage,” she said, and she wondered, “why would someone cause this damage for no reason,”
When referring to the affected businesses, he noted that “for them this is obviously terrifying, because it causes total uncertainty. “They are out of business at this point.”
However, Covell said he is confident the building on Russell Avenue will return to full operation.
“Rest assured, the building will be rebuilt and you will be in business again,” Covell promised, firmly.