Westminster Police Department officers responded to a call on October 3. A witness had said that while he was remodeling inside the building, he noticed someone unsuccessfully try to get into a vacant apartment. The witness then reported seeing the same guy — later identified as David Murray Stone — intentionally lighting paper on fire in front of the door, and caught him on a cellphone video doing it.
Most apartment buildings are outfitted with effective fire protection systems. After all, research shows that the combination of automatic sprinklers and early warning systems in all buildings can reduce overall injuries, loss of life, and property damage by at least 50%. Luckily, the incident caused minimal damage, as the fire had extinguished itself later on, officials said.
Stone later confessed to intentionally setting the fire, but officials were unable to establish a motivation. Police charged him with first-degree arson, second-degree malicious burning, malicious destruction of property, and reckless endangerment.
The thing is, the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office said that Stone may be linked to other such fires. In other words, he could be a potential serial arsonist. On September 13, the same exact address suffered three separate fires to the inside. Now, Stone is a person of interest in the case as the investigation continues.
The timing of the case is also interestingly coincidental, as October is Fire Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness of how important fire prevention safety truly is.
A survey from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) shows that fires in homes without smoke alarms caused an average of 940 deaths each year between 2009 and 2013. In homes where there were smoke alarms present but not operational, 510 more people died in fires each of those years.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll have to worry about a potentially-serial arsonist setting fires outside of your door, it is worth worrying about whether your smoke alarm’s batteries have been changed.