UPDATE (June 10, 2021 2:47 p.m.):
ELKINS, W.Va. — Another man has been charged as a result of a Randolph County arson investigation.
According to a press release sent out by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office, Jason Collins, 43, of Elkins, has been arrested in connection to an arson incident in May 2020.
He has been “charged in connection with the may 25, 2020 fire at his business, Anytime Trucking Company,” for an early morning fire which “caused an estimated $60,000 in damages,” the release states.
ORIGINAL (June 4, 2021 3:14 p.m.):
ELKINS, W.Va. – A Randolph County man is facing several arson-related charges after state fire marshals said he set two tow trucks on fire, which spread to a building.
On May 25, 2020, the West Virginia Fire Marshal’s Office was requested to investigate a fire at a residence on Apache Drive in Elkins which had occurred on that same date, according to a criminal complaint.
When marshals arrived, the Elkins Fire Department informed them that the fire consisted of three vehicles burning near a residence, and that the blaze caused damage to the structure, marshals said.
The home’s owner was in a different state during the time of the fire, and he stated during an interview that the home “was locked, and a rollback tow truck was parked blocking the entrance to the driveway,” according to the complaint.
On May 26, 2020, marshals conducted an investigation of the scene and “identified lines of demarcation on two of the three burned vehicles,” which led marshals to believe “that there were two separate fires set in each of the commercial tow vehicles that ultimately extended to a passenger vehicle,” as well as the residence, marshals said.
The investigation also showed that “the fires originated within the passenger compartment of both commercial tow vehicles and that an ignitable liquid was most probably utilized in the ignition of these fires,” according to the complaint.
When samples of the scene were taken to the West Virginia State Police forensic laboratory, it returned that gasoline was used; marshals were also advised of an individual who was seen “in proximity to the fire when it occurred” wearing a hooded sweatshirt, marshals said.
The home’s owner told marshals that “no one was supposed to be on the property at the time the fire occurred,” and that “he parked the rollback tow vehicle to obstruct access to the one lane bridge and property,” according to the complaint.
The man near the fire was identified as Elwood Hebb, 45,of Elkins, and when marshals asked him if he had been paid $5,000 to burn the vehicles, but Hebb replied that he was paid that amount for fixing the house, marshals said.
On June 3, 2021, Hebb, who was an employee of the trucking company, turned himself in to authorities upon request, after a 13-month investigation, according to the complaint.
Marshals spoke with a witness who stated that “they were offered $5,000 to burn a vehicle,” and “declined the offer,” the same witness also stated that the person who offered the cash had “given indication that they were aware of the potential hazard of the fire extending to adjacent items or property,” according to the complaint.
Based upon the investigation, marshals determined that “the fire had been a result of a deliberate act,” and that Hebb “was not supposed to be on the property at the time of the fire and did willfully set fire,” marshals said.
Hebb has been charged with burning or attempt to burn insured property, third-degree arson, conspiracy and first-degree arson. He is being held in Tygart Valley Regional Jail on $100,000.
This case remains open and under investigation. WVSFMO investigators are requesting anyone with knowledge or information about this event to contact the West Virginia State Fire Incident Hotline at (800) 233-FIRE / (800) 233-3473