BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The smoke could be seen for miles in what firefighters called one of the most intense fires they’ve battled in years. The man accused of intentionally starting it is now locked up in jail.
Monique Griego explains he’s a face familiar to the store owner, customers and their neighbors.
WJZ has learned that the man police arrested was actually an employee at the tire shop, but what police haven’t told us yet is the motive.
Jason Hicks, 35, is locked up and facing arson charges one week after the massive fire that destroyed the Belvedere Tire Store where he worked. The flames injured one man and sent smoke that smelled like burning petroleum billowing across Northwest Baltimore up the Reisterstown Road corridor all the way into Pikesville. It was a financial loss for the family that operated the store for several decades.
“And when I heard one of my co-workers yell ‘Fire, Fire!’ and I looked and the fire’s already touching the ceiling. I panicked and told everybody, ‘Let’s just get out of here. Don’t even worry about putting it out,'” one employee of Belvedere Tire said.
Putting it out completely took firefighters the better part of two days.
“I thought my whole shop building was going to catch on fire, you know,” said Reuben Maxwell.
Maxwell owns the auto repair shop next door. He’s not surprised to hear police arrested Belvedere Tire employee Jason Hicks.
“Whenever my customers stop here, he comes right here messing with my customers,” he said.
Maxwell says he called the police on Hicks several times, and even warned the Belvedere Tire Store owner about Hicks.
“He was a troublemaker and I keep on telling Mr. Washington that guy is a troublemaker, get rid of him. But Mr. Washington don’t want to listen,” he said.
There’s nothing left of the burned building itself.
Tires are now being sold on a vacant lot across the street while the tire store owner, its employees and its neighbors wait for the wheels of justice to turn.
Hicks now faces a long list of criminal charges in connection with that fire. Police are expected to release more information on the arrest Monday.