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 Post subject: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:06 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 590
Location: B'more Maryland
I was reading Big Mike's recent column in TRP this month and he mentioned how a number of railroad buildings burned down due to arson.

It seems like this was a very common event in the late "classic" era.

Was there an outbreak of kids playing with matches at the time, or was there something else going on?


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 1:56 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:21 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Danbury, CT
As a professional firefighter, I can say the following..... Arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations and is a term used very cautiously. When a fire is deemed to be an act of arson, it’s typically done so with great certainty.

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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 2:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
Posts: 4204
Location: Maine
I think abandoned buildings, or those which appear abandoned, are attractive nuisance targets for kids without homes, discipline, or boundaries. Cabooses being used as displays are another frequent target. I'm not a sociologist, but i think homeless addicts start fires to keep warm and lose control of the fire or use boards and scrap to feed it.

It's certainly not a cure, but painting, posting notices of ownership, painting, and boarding up (heck, welding shut) windows and doors might stave of vandal for awhile. I observe that humans are part of the entropy of objects. Like it or not, preservationist must show a frequent and regular presence, with constant up keep to keep anything "as it was".

Then there's public flogging, but here I digress....

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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:10 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 20, 2005 7:54 pm
Posts: 59
Don't be surprised if some of these accidental fires blamed on the homeless were actually ignited quietly by a city or business insider as an easy way to condemn and tear down an old structure, so as to circumvent community pushback, historical societies, environmental and permitted costly demos, etc.


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:28 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 590
Location: B'more Maryland
F40PHR231 wrote:
Don't be surprised if some of these accidental fires blamed on the homeless were actually ignited quietly by a city or business insider as an easy way to condemn and tear down an old structure, so as to circumvent community pushback, historical societies, environmental and permitted costly demos, etc.


Yeah, that's what I was getting at.

I noticed that a surprising number of towers or agencies on the Lehigh Valley were the victims of alleged arson during the 60s and 70s. Now, that's being relayed anecdotally so the truth may be that there was another official conclusion but it just seems abnormal from a modern perspective.


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 3:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9494
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Covered bridges are another frequent arson target.

There have also been accusations of "arson for hire" hitting certain historic buildings under railroad ownership. The theory is that the arson does away with a historic structure that would incite local protests to preserve (often without any matching dollars, as seen in instances where buildings get turned over to the town and then languish for years rotting further), reams upon ream of paperwork and untold "billable hours" to get past historic preservation protocols, etc. no matter how derelict or useless the building may be.

One such example of burning and arson accusations: the Baltimore & Ohio Tobacco Warehouse in Locust Point, Baltimore, which burned ca. 1995, now the site of luxury townhouses:

https://www.loc.gov/resource/hhh.md0910 ... st=gallery

Location today: https://goo.gl/maps/DTYbPu1EoyLyjNMa8


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 4:39 pm 

Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2015 5:00 pm
Posts: 23
Since the end of regular service, the East Broad Top has lost quite a few things to fire. Not just arson, but owners who just wanted to get rid of a carbody or building, and in one case a station was used as firefighter practice. Arsonists burned the Woodville machine shop and mule barn, at least one three sided shelter (Kimmel ), and the Kimmel and Jacobs handcar sheds. Wooden buildings in the middle of no where with little police protection, what could be expected? Oh yes, the Saltillo and Mt Union water tanks were also burned by arsons.

brian b


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:00 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:00 pm
Posts: 68
I was told a story of an old unused RR station that repeatedly caught fire and was extinguished by the local FD. This went on until the RR parked a freight long enough to block the crossings...


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:23 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2004 9:53 pm
Posts: 33
In the late 70's several Chessie abandoned buildings burned down in our area-B&O freight house in Hamilton, OH, the B&O roundhouse on Spring Grove Ave in Cincinnati and the C&O roundhouse at Silver Grove, KY which was housing Reading 2101 at the time. All were suspected as arson. My area railfan buddies and I suspected the "Chessie Arson Squad". Too many coincidences, too close together.


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:43 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:15 am
Posts: 554
Kimball wrote:
I was told a story of an old unused RR station that repeatedly caught fire and was extinguished by the local FD. This went on until the RR parked a freight long enough to block the crossings...


Did that stop the fires starting or just stop the firefighters from putting it out too quickly???


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:48 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 752
Location: Warren, PA
Erie Railroad (E-L)'s big division point station at Salamanca, NY was burned by arson in 2014. That was a magnificent old building, was a real hotbed of E-L in the pre-Conrail era, and also had the misfortune of being on leased Seneca Nation land.

Rather than type, here's the link, to say 'suspicious' only gets it started...this ties into the facts the way I know them, and all too common, including the fact that there were some accusations of deliberate slow response that ultimately end in the typical story of a kid with matches.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamanca_station


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Fri Jul 26, 2019 11:13 am 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1452
Mount Royal wrote:
As a professional firefighter, I can say the following..... Arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations and is a term used very cautiously. When a fire is deemed to be an act of arson, it’s typically done so with great certainty.


You say that arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations. I can understand that, but what about ruling out arson as a cause? I can see how arson could be ruled out if another cause is obvious with rock solid evidence. But in cases where the cause is not completely obvious, how easy is it to rule out arson as the cause?

In other words, without knowing the cause, can you prove that the cause was not arson?


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Sat Jul 27, 2019 10:27 pm 

Joined: Wed Feb 24, 2010 8:21 pm
Posts: 418
Location: Danbury, CT
Ron Travis wrote:
Mount Royal wrote:
As a professional firefighter, I can say the following..... Arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations and is a term used very cautiously. When a fire is deemed to be an act of arson, it’s typically done so with great certainty.


You say that arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations. I can understand that, but what about ruling out arson as a cause? I can see how arson could be ruled out if another cause is obvious with rock solid evidence. But in cases where the cause is not completely obvious, how easy is it to rule out arson as the cause?

In other words, without knowing the cause, can you prove that the cause was not arson?


When an investigation finds no cause, it is labeled “undetermined”. A fire cannot be determined arson on suspicion alone. Evidence must exist to substantiate an arson claim.

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Randy Patterson
RMNE/NAUG


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 8:48 am 

Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2018 2:31 am
Posts: 1
The mainline preservation group in Victoria, Australia was devastated by a fire back in 2015. The last of one type of vintage, timber bodied, electric train was destroyed along with several other carriages and a significant part of the workshops.

Originally the fire was thought to be the result of an electrical short circuit, further investigation pointed to a certain individual. He was later convicted of numerous offences. Arson, criminal damage, even illegally entering and then derailing a train. He received 14 years for all of this.

At the railway where I volunteer, we were a little lucky with him. He turned up and started volunteering a few months before the main Steamrail fire in 2015. Some of the questions amd his general demeanour, along with a desire to get access to keys/the workshop on his own (after only a few weeks….. most of us have keys and security codes but it takes a year or two to build the trust.) which raised enough red flags with the rest of us that we ended up requesting that he stop attending.

Cheers, Alistair.

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/rai ... f7d7a6bcfd

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-01/ ... ge/7467344


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 Post subject: Re: "Arson" fires
PostPosted: Sun Jul 28, 2019 1:04 pm 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1452
Mount Royal wrote:
Ron Travis wrote:
Mount Royal wrote:
As a professional firefighter, I can say the following..... Arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations and is a term used very cautiously. When a fire is deemed to be an act of arson, it’s typically done so with great certainty.


You say that arson is a relatively difficult conclusion to reach in fire investigations. I can understand that, but what about ruling out arson as a cause? I can see how arson could be ruled out if another cause is obvious with rock solid evidence. But in cases where the cause is not completely obvious, how easy is it to rule out arson as the cause?

In other words, without knowing the cause, can you prove that the cause was not arson?


When an investigation finds no cause, it is labeled “undetermined”. A fire cannot be determined arson on suspicion alone. Evidence must exist to substantiate an arson claim.


I understand, but the point I am making is that aside from difficulty of proving that arson did happen, it would be much harder to prove it did not happen. That would be proving a negative. The Forest Service has not labeled the cause of the 416 fire as "undetermined," so they must regard the cause as being "determined."

Yet their evidence for the cause is weak, and the possibility of the cause being arson has not been ruled out. It cannot be ruled out unless they had irrefutable evidence that the D&S locomotive started the fire. Yet, their evidence is the fact that trains start fires, and the fire started relatively near to a train.

So given the fact that the evidence for a cause is weak, and that there is a real possibility that the cause was arson, I cannot understand how the cause of the 416 fire can be anything but "undetermined."


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