Madison — June 27, 2011 — Authorities are investigating two suspicious house fires set Monday morning in Eaton and Freedom. Meanwhile, investigators, who have been probing a number of other recent fires, are searching for the owner of a blue Jeep with Maine plates.
“The involved agencies are attempting to locate, identify and speak with the owner or operator of a blue Jeep Wrangler with a white top,” according to the New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s Office. “It is believed the Jeep has a Maine registration with the two pine cones and chickadee bird design.”
That design is a general issue plate, according to the Maine’s Secretary of State Office.
In all, there have been about 14 fires in the Madison area over the last month and a half, according to police chief James Mullen who urges members public to call police immediately if they see anything suspicious.
“I can’t stress that enough,” said Mullen.
The most recent fires broke out on Monday morning. One fire destroyed a home on Glines Hill Road in Eaton and the other fire destroyed a home on Watson Hill Road in Freedom. The New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s office declared both house fires as “incendiary” which means accident and natural causes have been ruled out. The ruling was made with assistance from state and local police and municipal fire departments.
Polly Vanasse, an owner of the Glines Hill home, said she believes her family was targeted because nobody was home. She and her son, Matt, left the house on Friday and the house was apparently burned on Monday morning. The family had been using the house as a second home for 30 years. Matt had been living there since April.
“Now it’s gone.” she said.
On Monday morning her family and a friend were sorting through the remains to see what could be saved. She expressed optimism that a suspect will be caught.
“We got Whitey Bulger so we can get this pyromaniac,” said Vanasse.
There was no one in the Watson Hill home at the time of the fire but there were people there over the weekend, said Freedom fire chief Gene Doe.
Late last Tuesday night, a fire consumed two barns on Mooney Hill Road. Some chickens and a rabbit perished in that blaze. Investigators urge anyone who saw something suspicious in that area between 11 p.m. and midnight to come forward. There were two other fires at the end of last week. One fire was at Purity Spring Resort was on Wednesday. That fire destroyed a small building. Then on Thursday, another fire broke out at Mooney Hill Road where the barn fires took place, said Mullen.
Anxiety about these fires is growing if The Conway Daily Sun’s Facebook Page is any measure. The fires are apparently becoming more brazen. The first fires were set in the woods. Then there were barn fires. Now, the suspect is apparently targeting homes.
“This is getting ridiculous,” wrote Ashleigh Nash. “Whoever has been setting these fires needs to be caught and stopped. It’s getting too close to my families home for comfort. It’s not okay to not feel safe in the town you’ve lived in practically your whole life.”
Arson is a serious crime. Nationwide, it result in over 300 deaths and $700 million in property loss on an annual basis, according to the New Hampshire Fire Marshal’s office.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Madison Police Department dispatch at (603) 539-2284, the N.H. Fire Marshal’s Office at (603) 223-4289 or the N.H. Arson Hotline (800) 400-3526.
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Authorities are offering tips to protect your home and property from an arsonist:
This announcement is a public service of numerous agencies, including New Hampshire State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan along with Madison Police Department, Freedom Police Department, Tamworth Police Department, Ossipee Police Department, Carroll County Sheriff Department, New Hampshire Department of Forest and Lands, New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, and New Hampshire State Police.
* Keep your outside lights on or on motion sensors.
* Keep and interior light on or on a timer so it looks like some one is at home.
* Have a friend or family member leave a vehicle in the driveway and move it every so often so it looks like someone is home.
* Keep all windows and doors locked this includes your sheds and out buildings.
* Keep all flammable liquids under lock and key.
* Clean out all over grown vegetation from around your home and business.
* Replace broken panes of glass on windows.
* Remove all excess clutter from around your home or business.
* Contact your local police department to see if they do home and business checks while you are away.
* Report any suspicious activity to police no matter how insignificant you might think it is.
* Do not take matters into your own hands.