Tips sought on string of Gaithersburg fires

A strip mall on Gaithersburg’s East Diamond Avenue suffered damage after a fire in the overnight hours of Wednesday into Thursday. (Courtesy MCFRS/Pete Piringer)

Fire crews in Gaithersburg, Maryland, battled a series of fires that happened between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. Thursday, and investigators have determined that three of these fires were intentionally set.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer is asking anyone with information about what happened to call the arson tip line at 240-777-2263.

“The common denominator, of course, is the time they all occurred, (sort of) the same time frame, and between 1 and 2, and then of course a geographic location. So that’s a common denominator,” Piringer said, adding that aside from the time and place, he does not believe that investigators have determined the connection between the fires.

The first happened around 1:20 a.m. at the Montgomery Village Eye Center on the 18000 block of Montgomery Village Avenue. This is being investigated as arson.

Around 1:30 a.m., fire crews responded to a home on the 19500 block of Divot Place just off Watkins Mill Road in Montgomery Village, where a shed and a fence had caught fire. Piringer said the fire, which was behind town houses, had melted the siding of a house, but firefighters were able to put the fire out quickly.

Five minutes later, fire crews responded just a mile away to the 10000 block of Dellcastle Road, where a garage was set on fire.

The homeowner was not aware that there was a fire, and firefighters got the person out without injury. Piringer said the fire caused “pretty significant damage.”

At 1:42 a.m., there was a report of a vehicle on fire on the 100 block of Watkins Station Circle. The vehicle had been reported stolen, and the fire is being investigated as arson, Piringer said.

The series of fires ended around 2 a.m. when crews doused flames at several businesses at the Galanis Shopping Center, a strip mall along East Diamond Avenue, near South Frederick Avenue. Piringer said there was significant damage to the buildings. This fire is being investigated as arson.

The Gaithersburg Police Department is also investigating a break-in at a jewelry store on Frederick Avenue that happened at 1:30 a.m., where some jewelry had been removed.

The fires and the burglary are being investigated by both the Gaithersburg Police Department and the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, a news release said. Anyone with information on what happened above should call police at 301-258-6400 or the Fire & Explosive Investigators at 240-777-2263.

WTOP’s Thomas Robertson contributed to this report. 

Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He is the co-creator, host and producer of the original WTOP podcast, “Is It Normal Yet?!” The podcast debuted in 2021 and takes a weekly look at how the D.C. region is dealing with coronavirus.

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