‘The building will be rebuilt:’ Repairs underway after spate of six fires in Gaithersburg

The charred remnants of a burned car sits in front of the La Frontera Restaurant. (Luke Garrett/WTOP)
A side stairwell of a build set on fire in Gaithersburg, Maryland. (Luke Garrett/WTOP)
Crews work to repair the El Salvadoreno restaurant after a Sunday morning fire. (Luke Garrett/WTOP)

Six separate “suspicious fires” at two shopping centers in Gaithersburg, Maryland, this weekend left store and building owners with a lot of work to do in the week ahead.

The spate of fires started around 2:30 a.m. Sunday at the Holbrook Center across from Gaithersburg High School, according to the Montgomery County Fire Department. Around an hour later, more fires were reported at another shopping center at 3 Russell Avenue in Gaithersburg.

“It was difficult to actually come and to see it so badly damaged and understand — or even begin to understand — why somebody would do such damage for no particular reason,” Mary Covell, the owner of the building on Russell Avenue, said.

A person of interest is in custody, but Montgomery County Fire and Rescue have not identified the individual, nor their relation to the fires.

Covell said the the fires were rattling to the business owners affected.

“It’s frightening,” Covell said. “It’s frightening for them, because it’s so uncertain. Obviously, they don’t have a business at the moment.”

Video courtesy of Tim Denzel

Among the businesses impacted are the La Frontera and El Salvadoreño restaurants — both serving Salvadorian cuisine. Montgomery County fire did not comment on whether ethnicity played a role in this arson.

When asked what she’d say to the arsonist, Covell struggled to find words.

“Why?” Covell said. “How can you think like that? You’re setting a fire just because you want to see the flames? Why would you cause such destruction? I have no words.”

Despite this, Covell said she’s confident that the building on Russell Avenue will be back up and running.

“The building will be rebuilt, and they will have a business again,” Covell said. “All will be well.”

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Luke Garrett

Luke Garrett is a D.C. native dedicated to journalism. He is a reporter and the creator, host and producer of the original WTOP podcast, “DMV Download.” The podcast debuted in 2022. On the show, Garrett takes a weekly look at the biggest stories and ideas in the D.C. region.

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