Officials: Ashland arson suspect confesses to setting first fire

Jose Antonio Ramirez. Courtesy: Ashland Police Department
Jose Antonio Ramirez. Courtesy: Ashland Police Department

By Laura Geller - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

ASHLAND, VA (WWBT) - Three fires at the same location in exactly one week and now officials say that the man caught allegedly setting the third fire has confessed to setting the first fire.

The Hanover Fire Department says 23-year-old Jose Antonio Ramirez sparked the latest fire at the Super 8 Motel in Ashland Saturday morning.

Hanover Fire Chief Willie Jones said it was strange fire would devastate the same building in such a short time. That instinct caused the department to set up surveillance on the motel. The operation paid off as authorities say they watched as Ramirez set the third fire.

Exactly one week after flames engulfed the Super 8 motel, more damage is added to this list. Now fire has destroyed seven units just a few yards away from each other. This particular fire, sparked around 1:00 a.m., was put out in about twenty minutes. And like the second one on Wednesday morning, no one was at the hotel so there were no injuries.

Fire Marshal Judson Flournoy tells us authorities had their eyes on Ramirez.

"We think that he may be an employee here but we're not positive," he said. "The connection is that he has been seen at the other incidents of fire, which peaked our interest."

Flournoy says a surveillance team spotted Ramirez on Route 54 and watched as he turned into the parking lot, went up to the second floor, and lit the fire. As firefighters worked to get the flames under control, Ashland police officers charged Ramirez with arson. They've searched both the motel and the 23-year-old's home, looking for a connection to the three fires.

"I'm not going to rush to judgment on anything," said Flournoy. "I know personally he is responsible for at least one and we are looking at the other two also."

The Fire Marshal's Office is now looking for similarities among the three incidents, even using a dog trained to search for accelerants. At this point though, they don't have a motive as to why Ramirez would allegedly do this.

"At some point we hope that he'll cooperate with us fully but we'll just have to see," he said.

Ramirez is being held in the Pamunkey Regional Jail without bond. He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday. Building inspectors will examine the motel to determine its structural stability and what needs to be done to make it once again safe for guests.

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