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Police in Accomack Co., Va. hope they’ve ended five months of arsons

Police in Virginia say they have caught a serial arsonist responsible for almost 80 fires since November:

Police said the man who set the fire was Charles R. Smith III, 38, who friends said was a former captain with a volunteer fire department in Accomack County. His girlfriend, Tonya S. Bundick, 40, was driving the getaway car, police said.

The arrests shocked friends and neighbors, who said the couple did not fit the portrait of serial arsonists. They live in a single- family home, and Smith has an auto body shop in Tasley. Bundick, who has two school-age children, runs a small clothing shop.

“I don’t think there’s anybody that doesn’t know them,” said Erik Redmond, an acquaintance and a medic in a local fire department. “They were a very social couple. They were always out in all the bars.. . . It’s not like they were reclusive.” (Read the full report here.)

Bundick appeared in court Wednesday. If the pair are guilty, they started a new fire about once every other night for five months. The arsonists, using sophisticated methods, nearly exhausted Accomack County’s firefighters, who are mostly volunteers. As Justin Jouvenal reported last month:

(Virginia State Police)

Virginia State Police said the fires have been set in ways that they go undetected for an hour or two, although authorities declined to discuss those methods. Officers said the burned buildings, although scattered across the 450-square-mile county, are in areas with multiple escape routes. . .

Crews are stretched thin, and firefighters are worn out and hoping the next blaze does not strike when they have another emergency to attend to.

The only consolation has come from an outpouring of donations of coffee, water and desserts from the public to fuel them each night. (Read the rest of the story here.)

Max Ehrenfreund writes for Wonkblog and compiles Wonkbook, a daily policy newsletter. You can subscribe here. Before joining The Washington Post, Ehrenfreund wrote for the Washington Monthly and The Sacramento Bee.


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