West Virginia Fire Leads To Woman’s Arrest in Maryland

A Terra Alta woman was arrested after she told West Virginia fire investigators who had charged her with arson that she set a fire in nearby Oakland last summer.

Deputy State Fire Marshals were contacted by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office after they arrested Rachel Lin Giffen, 23, for intentionally setting a fire at her employer’s store in Terra Alta.

On January 9, 2024, firefighters responded to the End Zone convenience store in the 34000 block of Veterans Highway just outside Terra Alta. Firefighters discovered a large wooden bin filled with cardboard on fire inside the garage area of the business. Firefighters were able to contain the fire with minimal damage to the business.

During their investigation, the West Virginia State Fire Marshals Office interviewed Giffen, and she admitted to them that she had intentionally set the fire. While interviewing Giffen, she told them she had also started a fire at a Fox’s Pizza Den in Oakland on July 4, 2023, where she was previously employed. Oakland is approximately ten miles away from Terra Alta.

Investigators contacted their Maryland counterparts, who followed up on the information. After reviewing surveillance footage and interviewing other employees, they confirmed that Giffen had started a fire inside a restaurant’s closet. It was concluded the fire was small, and Oakland firefighters were able to contain it before spreading. However, the Office of the State Fire Marshal was not requested to investigate the cause.

After posting bond for the West Virginia fire, Giffen turned herself in to Maryland authorities, where she was charged with malicious burning second-degree. She was later released after posting a $5,000 unsecured bond.

“The arrest reveals our partnership with our fire investigation and law enforcement agencies that reaches far and wide. I thank West Virginia State Fire Marshal Ken Tyree and his dedicated team. Several of our investigators, including myself, attend their annual annual training conference, which includes sharing ideas and the latest information. Together, we have forged relationships that result in safer communities,” stated acting State Fire Marshal Jason M. Mowbray.