ACCOMACK COUNTY, Va. - Residents in Accomack County are being asked to keep an extra set of eyes on their neighborhoods as State Police confirm 62 abandoned buildings have been set on fire in the area.
More than 60 abandoned buildings on the Eastern Shore have been set on fire since mid-November and a $25,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to an arrest.
State Police told WAVY.com last month a series of individuals may be responsible for the fires, which have increased significantly during the past few days. This past weekend, five abandoned structures were set aflame. Four additional fires were ruled arson that occurred Monday and Tuesday evenings.
According to Capt. Timothy Reibel with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Chesapeake Field Office, 69 percent of the fires are being discovered between 6 p.m. and midnight. Additionally, he said fires were also discovered after sunrise. Reibel said most of the structure fires have been located on primary and secondary roads, providing the suspects with easy access to leave as they please.
"Based on the evidence to date, we are confident that these fires are being set anywhere between an hour to two hours before being discovered," Reibel said. "S ome of the targeted structures have been in very remote, random locations throughout this rural county. This not only makes the fires more difficult to detect, but also enables the criminal to come and go with minimal detection."
No one has been injured in the fires, so officials are recommending residents keep an extra eye out for any suspicious behavior or unknown vehicles in their neighborhoods.
" It could only be a matter of time before that changes and a citizen, firefighter or investigator is seriously injured," Reibel said.
For 30 years, Greg Orfield has investigated arson cases and he told 10 On Your Side the case of the Eastern Shore arsonist is the worst he has ever seen.
"I don't know of a time in the Hampton Roads area that we have had as many as they've had on the Eastern Shore," Orfield said.
Orfiel is president of the Tidewater Regional Arson Panel, a group of law enforcement officials who discuss investigation improvements in arson cases. He refused to comment on the specifics of the Eastern Shore arsonist.
"The one thing about an arsonist is there are different motives for setting fires. Everything from spite, revenge... to being a pyromaniac," Orfield said. "When you have someone setting fires, sometimes their motives can change."
The MO for the Eastern Shore arsonist seems clear - burn down abandoned structures without injuring anyone.
"This could be anger at an agency... it could be a business thing," Orfield said. "People who are setting fires is the same thing as people with bombs. That's why arson and bombs are pretty much related."
WAVY.com has learned the FBI is also involved.
"[Arsonists] incite terror in people," Orfield said.
State Police say they are also working with ATF agents, the Accomack County Sheriff's Office and State Police BCI arson and crime investigators.
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