Homeless man sets fire to shelter hoping to ‘make it safer’

1 min read
Man sets the fire while his roommate is asleep; he had hoped to make the shelter safer
Man sets the fire while his roommate is asleep; he had hoped to make the shelter safer

CUMBERLAND, MD – A homeless man housed at the Union Rescue Mission homeless shelter in Cumberland told police he was only trying to make the shelter safer when he set fire to his bunk bed while his roommate was sleeping.

Keith Wayne Bergdoll, 31, was charged after investigators determined he was responsible for setting his bunk bed on fire. He was apparently upset that the shelter did not provide a smoke detector in his room.

“Investigators learned that Bergdoll set the fire while his roommate was asleep in the top bunk and walked away,” the Cumberland Police Department said today. “He reportedly told investigators he started the fire hoping to make the homeless shelter safer. He was concerned after discovering a smoke alarm was not in his bedroom.”

According to police, on Monday, just before 8:00 a.m., Cumberland Fire Department was dispatched for a fire at the Union Rescue Mission located at 16 Gulf Memorial Drive.

“When they arrived, they were told an employee had quickly extinguished a fire in one of the bedrooms,” detectives reported today.

At the time of the fire, the shelter was housing 22 men and an unknown number of workers and volunteers. It is attached to another shelter that housed 22 women.

No injuries were reported.

“The arrest of this suspect reveals our partnership with our fire investigation and law enforcement agencies and their outstanding commitment to Maryland’s citizens,” State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said. “Setting a fire within a homeless shelter where some of our most vulnerable go to stay warm on one of the first cold nights in Maryland is a despicable act. Anyone, including Mr. Bergdoll, could have called our agency or the Cumberland Fire Department, and we would have promptly responded and corrected the situation.”