BELGRADE (AP) – Fire officials are investigating a series of arson fires the past two months at residential construction sites in Belgrade, Fayette and Oakland.

Ken Grimes of the state fire marshal’s office said the latest fire occurred Tuesday morning at a home under construction off Dunn Road in Belgrade.

He said arson may have been the cause of fires at a construction site on Hoyt Island in Great Pond in Belgrade, at a building project in Oakland, and in a portable toilet that burned at a construction site in Fayette.

Grimes said three of the fires occurred during the early morning hours. Nobody has been hurt.

Belgrade Fire Chief Jeff Stevens said firefighters determined that Tuesday’s fire had probably been set deliberately.

because they could see a number of places around the foundation where flames had ignited.

Grimes said it appeared some type of ignitable liquid, such as gasoline, had been used.

Stevens and Grimes asked area residents to report any suspicious activity around new construction sites.

“We’re on alert right now watching new construction,” Stevens said.

Investigators say a fire Tuesday at a home under construction may be the latest in a spate of arsons at residential construction sites in Belgrade, Fayette and Oakland over the past two months.

Tuesday’s fire occurred about 8 a.m. at a home being constructed by Walter Laplante of Sidney off Dunn Road. Ken Grimes, senior investigator for the state Fire Marshal’s Office, said he’s looking at connections between that fire and others that have occurred at construction sites in the area.

It appears arson may have been the cause of a fire at a construction site about three weeks ago on Hoyt Island in Great Pond, which is part of the Belgrade Lakes; at a building project in Oakland about a month ago; and in a portable toilet that burned at a residential construction site recently in Fayette.

Grimes said three of the incidents occurred during the early morning hours.

“Certainly there are some similarities,” he said.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the fires.

Grimes said a fire that burned some stolen clothing in a wooded area off Route 135 in Belgrade on Sunday has not been linked to the other fires.

Hammond Lumber employee Bill Robinson discovered the Dunn Road fire when a wrong address while delivering building materials led him to Laplante’s partially constructed home.

Robinson smelled smoke after stepping out of his vehicle and saw flames at the back of the home, said State Trooper Diane Vance, who responded to the fire from her nearby home.

“If (Robinson) hadn’t gotten there when he did, it would have been gone. The whole thing would have gone up in flames,” Vance said.

Flames damaged floor trusses and portions of the basement in the home Laplante was constructing on his own, Stevens said.

About 15 Belgrade Fire and Rescue volunteers responded to the blaze, and had it under control within about 30 minutes, Belgrade Fire Chief Jeff Stevens said.

Firefighters used a heat-sensing camera to identify and extinguish hot spots in the two-story home.

Stevens said firefighters determined immediately that the fire had probably been set deliberately because they could see a number of places around the foundation where flames had ignited.

Grimes confirmed that it appeared some type of ignitable liquid, such as gasoline, had been used.

Stevens and Grimes both asked area residents to report any suspicious activity around new construction sites.

“We’re on alert right now watching new construction,” Stevens said.

Grimes said neighbors should take note of the vehicles contractors drive during the workday, and if they see unusual activity at the sites after workers have left or during early morning hours they should call police, sheriff’s or fire marshal’s offices.

The Fire Marshal’s Office can be reached at 624-8964.

AP-ES-07-30-03 0816EDT



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